COVINGTON, Ga. — As World Cup Soccer action has come to a fever pitch this past week, several Covington area soccer players — all, in some way, a part of the Eastside program — will be representing Georgia in the Olympic Development Program.
Rising sophomore Jordan Beam, rising juniors Tristan Aldridge and Creighton Goerner and rising eighth grader Tanner Beam will all travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama July 8-10 to participate in the ODP regionals, representing the state of Georgia while playing against other teams from states within the South/Southeast Region.
And whether you’re talking to players like Jordan Beam who’ll be heading into his fourth year and has parlayed his ODP success into being able to represent the country in international play, or someone like Jordan’s younger brother Tanner or Aldridge — both first year players — the sense of playing in the development program is still the same high honor.
“It’s obviously like, just a really good thing for us,” Aldridge said. “It’s an honor to attempt to play in this kind of setting, knowing that it gives you a chance to represent where you’re from and get better as player. It’s my first time going, so I don’t know what to expect. But I’ve heard these guys talk about it, so I’m pretty excited.”
Tanner Beam agreed with that sentiment.
“It’s truly an honor because being there means you’ve gotten through some pretty hard competition, but at the same time, you’re playing hard competition, and it’s a reminder to make you work hard every single day,” he said.
The trio of Eastside varsity players, Jordan Beam, Goerner and Aldridge, all helped the Eagles to a solid 2018 season that included a Region 4-AAAA runner-up finish and a trip to the Class AAAA state playoffs.
Jordan Beam was named The Covington News boys freshman player of the year, while both Goerner and Aldridge were named to the all-Covington News squad.
Goerner said the opportunity to play on state teams in pool play during regional contests is an experience that’s equal parts team-building and a chance to get yourself known as a player.
“It’s really like a showcase,” Goerner said. “Your time in pool play with your region team gives you a chance to show your coaches — basically showcasing yourself as to the kind of player you are individually, but also how you can make your team look better.”
The players began the tryout process last summer and are among the 42 Georgia players selected from birth years 2000 through 2004.
Through pool play, the amount of players gets narrowed down to approximately 70, then after pool play around 30 players get chosen for holdovers, which gives coaches another opportunity to get extra insight on players who could move on deeper into the program.
“Basically you’re time in pool play is like your extended tryouts to see if you’ll move on to possibly play nationally or internationally,” Jordan Beam said.
All four of the athletes said they’re ecstatic to be playing with each other during the three-day event in Alabama. The group plays together in the Gwinnett Soccer Association and have played either together or against each other through local programs like Rysa and Galaxy.
Now with three of the four having played major minutes on the Eastside varsity squad, the players see ODPs as an extension of the season, and an opportunity to showcase the ample soccer talent Covington has to offer.
“I think with all of us being here and playing on this level, it reassures people, not just in Covington, but in rural areas as well that aren’t always used to producing a lot of talent, that no matter where you’re play, if you have the drive and the talent, you can do whatever you want in this game,” Jordan Beam said. “And doing it with these guys is extra special, because i’m getting to play with people help shape you into what you’re going to be.
“I shape them and they shape me.”