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Soccer standout trains with Olympic program

NATCHEZ — The best soccer players in the world might by in South Africa competing in the World Cup, but one young local soccer standout is making quite a name for herself in her own right.

Madeleine Christian, who will be a freshman at Cathedral this fall, was selected to train with the Olympic Development Program in Jackson this spring.

Christian attended tryouts last winter in hopes of being one of the 24 girls selected for her age group pool.

After trying out last year and not being selected for the age group pool, Christian was thrilled to find out she made it this year.

“It was pretty exciting,” Christian said. “I wasn’t expecting to make it and had kind of forgotten about it. When I found out I had made it, I was really happy.”

The Olympic Development Program, or ODP, is designed to identify elite soccer players at an early age and get them into the program.

There are several levels to the program. Once a player is selected into the age group pool, a group of those players are selected for the state team based on their birth year.

That team will then go to a regional level, and from that, players will be selected to age group national teams.

Christian went to several training sessions with her age group pool in hopes of being selected for her age group state team.

And although she wasn’t selected for the state team, making the age group pool was one step further than she made last year and a real accomplishment, her father Scott Christian said.

“It’s a big deal for Natchez that someone made it into the pool,” he said. “It was exciting that she made it as far as she did, especially since Natchez has no spring soccer program. The girls she was competing against had just finished playing with club teams. They were getting training and she’s practicing on her own.”

Since she made the age group pool this year, Madeleine will get an automatic invitation to the camp next year, and hopefully will keep climbing the ladder.

“She tried out last year and didn’t make the pool,” Scott Christian said. “This year she made it one step further. Next year hopefully she’ll take it another step. As long as we keep going up we’re OK.”

The family moved to Natchez from Plano, Texas, in the summer of 2008.

While in Texas, Madeleine was in the Texas Longhorns Soccer Academy and then played for the under-11 Texas Longhorns soccer club.

She also played for the under-12 Sting soccer club before moving to Natchez.

While she learned a lot about soccer playing for the travel teams, that wasn’t the only positives Madeleine took from the club teams.

“I enjoyed meeting new people and seeing what it’s like to visit other states,” she said. “It was fun getting to meet people from other cities and towns.”

Despite recently advancing to her freshman year of high school, Madeleine, who plays the forward position, is already a two-time letter winner for the Cathedral girls soccer team and a starter.

Humble at age 14, she spreads out the credit for her success to others.

“I’ve had great family support and great coaches,” she said. “They have really helped my skill level get better.”

Since there are no club or travel soccer teams in Natchez or the surrounding area, Madeleine only plays in the Natchez fall soccer league and sometimes in the adult Sunday afternoon soccer games behind McLaurin Elementary School.

And the lack of soccer amenities in Natchez might hamper Madeleine’s ability to advance through the ODP in the future, her father said.

“It’s very different because what we lack are training opportunities,” Scott Christian said. “In Texas she was getting six to eight hours a week with paid coaches. One of her coaches had a World Cup medal with Brazil. Here you’ve got volunteers who are doing the best they can, but it’s not the skills training she was getting out there. But you deal with the cards you have.”

But even though she didn’t make the ODP state team, Madeleine took heart in the words one of the coaches said after a training session.

“He told us we should be proud of how far we made it,” she said. “We can only improve our skills if we do it ourselves in practice. So hopefully I’ll go back next year and do even better.”

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