Opportunity comes to those who are ready

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By CHUCK RACE, SOCCER COLUMNIST

One minute you're on top of the world, expectations are high, and then ... thud. That's what it must have felt like for River Forest native Claire Goldenberg during her senior year at Oak Park and River Forest High School in 2003. A rare three-sport varsity athlete in this era of sporting specialization, Claire waited by the phone and mailbox for calls and letters from Division I coaches as her storied athletic career came to a close at Scoville and Lake. A three-year starter, First Team West Suburban (Silver) Conference selection and co-captain on the basketball team (including the 30-4 conference champion team), place-kicker for the football team, and a four-year starter, three?#34;year captain, and top scorer on the Huskie soccer team, you would have thought that her parents needed to de-list their phone number or at least get caller ID. With Claire's ability and sheer competitiveness it would seem incomprehensible that her playing days were ending. But yet, the phone stayed silent and the mailbox empty. While some D-II and D-III schools showed interest, Claire wanted to go to a Big Ten school, and inquiries made by her parents to the athletic departments often went unanswered.

Rather than remain upset and blame the world, Claire, in characteristic fashion, packed her bags for the University of Iowa and approached head coach Carla Baker as a walk-on candidate in August, 2003. Told that the roster was full, a restless Claire then tried out and made the Hawkeye water skiing team, despite virtually no prior experience on the water (yes, there is coed water skiing in Iowa City!). She not only made the team, but became one of their main jumpers. In January, Claire came to the winter soccer tryouts in great shape along with an even better attitude. Impressing coach Baker with her fitness, ball skills and most of all, a great attitude, Claire finally reached the summit: She was offered a spot. I'm picturing the scene in "Rudy" when Rudy, after busting his butt and choking with anticipation finally opens his last-chance letter, congratulating him on being accepted to the University of Notre Dame.

Claire started as marking back for the Hawkeyes this past fall, and although she suffered a foot injury midway through the season, logged considerable minutes. At the season's end, through a confluence of events, Baker asked her staff to recommend a back-up goalkeeper. The staff, without hesitation, nominated guess-who? Now, some heavily-recruited D-I players might balk at being asked to play an unfamiliar position; not our Claire. Look for her between the posts possibly next season.

So you see boys and girls, parents (and dare I say coaches), the "system" isn't perfect. There are opportunities at D-1, D-2 and D-3 schools for soccer players. Attitude counts; stay in shape; play soccer in the off-season. Chances come to those who are ready for them (it also wouldn't hurt your aspiring prep player to use resources like www.soccerinfo.com/recruiting. Excuse me now, the credits for "Rudy" are rolling.

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Upcoming Referee Clinics: Calling all teenagers and adults interested in becoming, or re-certifying as a soccer referee. There will be a United States Soccer Federation (USSF) Entry Level/Refresher (Level 7 and 8) clinic Feb. 26-27, and a USSF Recreational Referee (Level 9) clinic on March 19, both at OPRFHS. Obtaining/re-certifying your referee badge allows you to referee (or assistant referee) local AYSO and area youth travel games. Make some money, enhance your college application, or just have fun giving back to your community. Download the form from www.oprfstrikers.com, contact Kathy Corcos, OPRF Strikers at 771-5269 or Robert Canavan at naval@uic.edu to register.

From A Little Acorn Grows: Registration is starting for OPRF Strikers Soccer Club's spring "ACORN Academy" soccer training for non-Striker players ages 7-11. This is an eight week, Friday afternoon camp with professional, certified licensed trainers; contact the Strikers.

E-mail: crace822@sbcglobal.net

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