Kids from Plant City were crowned the winners in seven of the competition’s 10 age groups, earning their spot in the state round this December.
The Elks National Soccer Shoot competition is an annual contest where kids from around the country are able to showcase their talents through contests that test their skill levels, with five different age groups included for both boys and girls.
The Soccer Shoot consists of two different contests based on the age group of the participants. For those in the U-8 age group, the event features a “Five Goal Contest” that includes a series of five goals at which the participants aim, decreasing in size from 48 inches to 17 inches. For the four older age groups ranging from U-10 to U-16, the event features a “Grid Goal Contest” in which participants shoot at a full-size goal that is sectioned off, with different point totals awarded for different sections. In the Grid Goal Contest, participants rotate throughout three different rounds where they take five shots, resulting in 15 shots total, and the highest-scoring athlete advances.
Ben Edgemon has been a member of the Plant City Elks Lodge since 2009, organizing the local event since 2016 and seeing it grow to a level where Plant City has 144 individual athletes participate in this year’s preliminary round across all five age groups in both gender divisions.
“The first year was 2016 and it spun off of the basketball Hoop Shoot,” Edgemon said. “They were just asking some of the members if any of us would be willing to do it with soccer. I had ties to the soccer community here through the local club, the Plant City FC Lancers, so with me having ties there I said I’d give it a shot and we’ve averaged at least 100 kids per year in the seven years that I’ve been doing it.”
After some trial and error, Edgemon has found that the most effective way of getting the highest-level of participation is to come directly to the athletes, meeting at local team practices where players are able to earn their spot right then and there.
Following the local and district rounds, Plant City’s remaining representatives took to the Central Florida regional level competition in Umatilla, Fla. where seven of the 10 age groups were won by local Plant City athletes, earning their spot in the state round, also to be held in Umatilla on Dec. 10. If competitors advance beyond the state level, they will have a chance to compete at the Southeast regional level. All winners at the state and regional level will then have their scores sent to the national level where winners will be determined for each of the age and gender groups.
“The Soccer Shoot hasn’t been around that long but it’s the same premise as the Hoop Shoot and the Elks wanted to try it with soccer,” Edgemon said. “With soccer growing the way that it is, especially at the youth level, they wanted to try it. It brings attention to the Elks Lodge as well, the Elks Lodge does a lot within the city for the youth and veterans and things like that, but the kids that win have scholarship opportunities. But not just through the competition either, if family members become members they have scholarship opportunities through that as well, so there’s a lot of positives that come from it.”
Plant City’s Central Florida
Boys U-10: Jiovanni Rosales (48 points)
Girls U-10: Julia Ocampo-Cruz (44 points)
Boys U-12: Ivan Camargo (35 points)
Boys U-14: Andres Cruz (24 points)
Girls U-14: Sherlyn Martinez (44 points)
Boys U-16: Trotter Richardson (49 points)
Girls, U-16: Ashley Jeronimo (36 points)