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Updated: Mar 27


As we approach a week since the closing ceremonies of Florida Cup 2020, we finally get to take a moment to reflect on what a breathtaking experience this was for the entire Nona Family! Your Nona Soccer Academy had an active role in the planning, execution, and success of the Florida Cup 2020 festivities from the opening ceremony at our home field, Heroes Community Park, to the end of the final match at Exploria Stadium, and we owe it all to each and every member of our amazing Nona Family!

Our involvement in the week began on Tuesday, January 14 with Florida Fan Cup 2020, an ultra-competitive, amateur soccer tournament boasting a myriad of teams and players from all over the United States and South America. We took to the sidelines for some pre-game chat to gain some insight on just how geographically diverse this field of participant was. Gledston from Equipe Democrata de Governador Valadares out of Brazil told us “Part of the team lives in the United States; We have some people from Boston and Connecticut… some people from the [Florida] west coast in Ft.Myers and the east coast in Coconut Creek. Everyone else is from Brazil, Minas Gerais where Democrata is from.” This team particularly wore the name of the professional team from that region, so likely there was an extra element of passion and drive that came from these players wearing their teams colors on the field.

Interestingly enough, Gledston told us that he was here in Orlando in 1997 then playing for the professional squad, so he’s honored to be here almost 23 years later, wearing his teams colors again in a different capacity.

We then spoke time Matt from Team Raggamuffins, local men’s club out of Orlando, and we began setting the tempo on what the true focus of our coverage would be throughout the whole cup: Youth development and enrichment.

When asked about how he sees the state of youth development in the Greater Orlando area, he responded “The way that the sport is growing is unbelievable, when I was young and moved over from England, we never had these opportunities that the kids do nowadays… [with] Nona being one of the prestige soccer clubs in the area, [it] really has a great program. It’s exciting to see kids coming out every weekend and families being involved… We all have a love for soccer and it’s awesome to see it growing in Orlando.”

As the morning rolled on, we noticed our very own Coach Fabio Silva suited up in Red and saw that he would be joining team Pelada Raiz Windermere for their first game. Coach Fabio would go on to score the lone goal in a 2-1 loss and the entire staff would be sure to hear about it for the remainder of the cup.

Day two of coverage would be a content heavy day as our coaches and staff would meet bright and early at Exploria Stadium as they would be present for Florida Cup Talks, a series of panels made up of professionals of various disciplines within the sport that would be discussing topics concerning incredibly enriching best practices and strategies for everyone present.

The first panel centered around youth development provided insight on guidance and options for young athletes as they grow and develop. UCF Men’s Soccer Head Coach Scott Calabrese discussed the benefits of pursuing an education and being a university player as opposed to exclusively pursuing professional development.

It is fairly typical for any talent incubated here in the United States with professional aspirations to spend time playing for a university before being drafted or signing. Coach Calabrese mentioned the importance of not only playing, but completing their education and earning their degree before taking the next step in their career simply for the sake of long-term security and stability. “A degree is something that will only benefit you in the long run… it is something you will always have that can never be taken from you.” 

The current state of the youth development landscape in the sport of soccer has its peculiarities that are important for parents and coaches to consider when guiding a young athlete, one of which is the definition of “success”. In many nations around the world, the definition of this term is somewhat finite:  Success in the sport means exclusively to play professionally, anything less is falling short. One of the challenges in developing young talent in the United States is to broaden the mindset of parents and caretakers to help them understand that success in the sport of soccer means more than to simply to play professionally. Soccer can serve as a means to pursue an education in an area completely outside of the sport or it can serve to build a network that can open doors professionally in other areas of the game such as design, marketing, or administration. Soccer is a big game with limitless opportunities.

After a couple of hours of the panels, we began to move towards the gate to welcome our 200+ players and families to the much anticipated Nona Night for the first night of professional play. 

Select players would hold the flags and banners, walk out with the players, and serve as ball carriers for the night.

Additionally, players in attendance had the opportunity to take the field at halftime to kick the ball around with their teams and just be kids. Nona Night was truly one for the books!

For the next two days, we would be at Universal Studios’ Music Plaza Stage which transformed into a beautiful artificial pitch for several exhibition 5v5 mini-tournaments, the first of which would feature legends of Brazilian and Colombian soccer including Rivaldo, Neto, Denilson, Ronaldo Giovanelli, Marcelinho Carioca, Amaral, Cleber, Higuita, Zinho, Camilo Zuniga, Pacho Najera, and André Luiz.

Of the star-studded group, we had the opportunity to ask Colombian great René Higuita “What is the best piece of advice that you have for a child who is developing in the sport of soccer?” To which he responded “Oh my God. That is a question that seems to have a short answer, but it really does not. There comes a time in each of our lives where we wish we were still children, but we no longer are. It is our responsibility to distinguish between when to be child and when to become an adult. However, we cannot forget all of the beautiful substance and wonder that comes with childhood, we should carry those traits forever, but when it comes time to grow up we need to remember that we cannot continue to act like children.” 

When presenting the same question to Fred, lead man of Brazilian Youtube channel Desimpedidos with nearly 8 million subscribers, in reference to a passion for content creation in young children, he responded “The best advice I can give is the advice that I’ve applied to my own life: Train a lot, work a lot, and dedicate your time to accomplishing what you love and with certainty you’ll have a successful personal and professional life.”

It was an incredible privilege to pick the brains of individuals that have found success in their respective crafts whether it be soccer or content creation and pass this on to our Nona Family. As we always say, soccer is only half our story and we worked diligently this week to grow and enrich that other half for our players, parents, and staff.

As we wrapped up an incredible week with the Florida Cup Final won by Palmeiras, we realized that is was not the incredible opportunities on the field, but exposure and growth off the field that made last week so memorable. We can’t wait to grow these seeds of knowledge watch them bloom through our academy in 2020 and beyond.

This was truly an incredible start to not only the year, but a whole new decade! Thank you to everyone at Florida Cup for the opportunities and to the leadership team of Florida Fan Cup for bringing the events to Lake Nona, allowing us to share our fields, and a little of our Nona culture with you.

As always, we couldn’t do what we do without each member of the Nona Family.

Thank you!

Best Wishes,

Nona Soccer Academy Staff

Jan 2020


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