Grand Island Central Catholic seventh-grader Natalie Neuhaus started playing soccer with the YMCa at age 6.
Now, she’s gearing up to compete on a select Olympic Development Program Interregional team next week in Tennessee, according to her dad, John Neuhaus.
John Neuhaus said that back in September, Natalie tried out for the program that gets kids ready to compete at the next level. The Nebraska branch is based in Omaha.
Natalie found out in November she made the team, and she has been traveling to Omaha two or three times a month for Sunday practices, her dad said.
Members from the Omaha branch of the ODP are selected to go compete and represent Nebraska in Tennessee, competing against teams from other states.
John Neuhaus said 22 girls were selected for the team age group of girls born in 2006 and, out of those girls, 16 were selected to compete in Tennessee, Natalie among them.
John Neuhaus said the Tennessee tournament is a big deal because college coaches come to look at the girls to get an idea of the talent that will be coming in a few years.
Natalie would like to play college soccer when her time comes, he said.
Getting accepted into an elite program like ODP doesn’t happen overnight.
Natalie joined the local Heartland Football Club shortly after falling in love with the game in the Y league. She currently plays on the Pride team.
John Neuhaus said he gives a lot of credit to the coaches she has had throughout the years.
“Without them, their would be no development, no ODP,” he said.
Natalie also uses a technique app in the winter months to keep up with her training.
John Neuhaus said he and his wife, Erin, are proud of Natalie and her accomplishments.
“Erin and I are just proud she’s achieving some of her dreams, what she can so far, and we are happy she has the opportunity to achieve those dreams,” he said.