MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We'll jump to another team sport now, to the world's most popular team sport, actually, soccer. When Michael Seaton moved from Jamaica to Prince George's County at age 7, he went from the soccer-crazed Caribbean, where every kid kicks around a ball in the street, to a country just beginning to appreciate the sport. But with a little prodding from his mother, he kept playing. And in January, the lanky 16 year old signed on with D.C. United. Jacob Fenston caught up with the team's youngest player after a training session at RFK Stadium.
MR. JACOB FENSTON
It's a cold, rainy day. D.C. United players are warming up on the patchy Astroturf outside the stadium, gearing up for their first game of the season coming up this weekend against the dreaded Houston Dynamo. Off to one corner, Michael Seaton is recovering from a injured ankle. Up until last month, he was a junior at Central High School in Capitol Heights, Md.
MR. MICHAEL SEATON
People around here, in my area, it's like they like basketball and football. When they hear soccer, they're like iffy about it. So once I put the word pro next to it, it's like their head got all big and they're like, oh, you're a pro, professional soccer player. And so they're now picking up on soccer.
Seaton is about the same age as the team he now plays for. Both were born in 1996. In fact, Seaton is the first pro player in major league soccer born after the league was established. He came to the United States at just the right time, as the game's popularity started to take off. But he says, it's a bit strange now being surrounded by players twice his age.
I don't relate to them a lot, because they talk about bills, kids and housing and stuff so I don't relate a lot. But you actually learn a lot from them because they give me advice, they pick on me.
He stopped going to high school in January and now is working with a tutor toward his GED. The rest of his life has changed, too. Hanging out with friends, all the normal teenage stuff…
I actually don't have time for any of that. I just go to practice, take care of my body, after that I go home, eat, sleep, play some video games with my little brother and that's it.
He's so focused on soccer right now, he hasn't really thought about what comes after that or a plan B. He set his sights on a career in professional soccer a couple of years ago he says, when he started playing with the D.C. United Academy, which trains local youth.
MR. TOM TORRES
Michael was one of those kids who came in, you know, we weren't really sure about him.
Tom Torres coached Seaton in the academy.
You know, athletically he was fine, you know. He was a big kid, he was a fast kid, that wasn't an issue. But as he started to try to do things and try to make his technique better and figure out that, you know, hey, I'm not going to be able to do it just with my, you know, speed, you know, you kind of started to see that he had potential to be something really special.
Coach Tom, they kept pushing me. Even when I mess up, like I just want to give up on the field, they will push me. And I'd tell my mom, oh, they're shouting at me, doing this and that. And my mom thought about it and she actually said, they're trying to make you a pro. I know that for a fact because they're not pushing other kids as much as they're pushing you.
Coach Torres says the good thing about going pro at such a young age is that Seaton will have time to focus on soccer day in, day out.
You know, in order to really do something well, whether it's playing the piano or writing or, you know, playing a sport, you have to practice.
Torres himself grew up playing soccer in the D.C. area, in Alexandria, Va.
Growing up, we didn't have a lot of these opportunities. You know, back then we used to watch the Washington Stars that played at Woodson High School, that was the closest thing we had.
The Washington Stars was a local team that played in Fairfax before major league soccer, before D.C. United. But the United States is still way behind the rest of the world when it comes to cultivating talented young soccer players.
MR. SONNY SILOOY
When I'm growing it's soccer. I breathe soccer, I eat soccer.
Sonny Silooy is director of the D.C. United Academy. He came to Washington after a long soccer career in the Netherlands.
When I was growing up with soccer there was no computers, there was no cell phones. I have only one thing, was my ball and I play soccer every day.
Major League Soccer is relatively new in the United States, but soccer academies are even newer, established in the past decade or so. In Europe, generations of kids have been training at league academies.
MR. BEN OLSEN
At the moment, what I see, nobody is ready for Europe, in youth soccer. I think it's the future.
D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen says training more young homegrown players like Seaton is what will take soccer in the U.S. to the next level.
We need to get up to speed with the rest of the world and develop our young talent at an earlier age and put them in environments to succeed at an earlier age.
Meanwhile, Michael Seaton says he's trying to stay humble and not let going pro go to his head. Seaton says his mom and step-dad were secretly elated at the news, but they tried to act like it was no big deal.
They always try to hide it because they don't want me to get my head all big, but I caught them one day. I heard her on the phone. She was calling everyone telling them, oh, my son is a pro, my son is a pro. So I noticed they were really happy, especially my step-dad. He goes on the porch, I sneak outside to just listen to the guy and he was calling everyone Jamaica telling them, oh, he's a pro. My boy all pro, he's a pro.
I'm Jacob Fenston.
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