A signing-day ceremony no one has to be queasy about


It was national signing day, or thereabouts, and by now you know how it works on national signing day: A table is set up in a high school gymnasium, or someplace similar, and then Johnny Blue Chip and Mr. and Mrs. Blue Chip come strolling in, and the pep band strikes up the fight song, usually the "Notre Dame Victory March" or "On Wisconsin!"

Then Johnny Blue Chip signs his letter of intent.

If Mr. Blue Chip is wearing a shirt with a blue collar, he sighs in relief, because this means he won't have to tap into his 401(k) to pay for his kid's education. Mrs. Blue Chip probably will cry, because this is what moms do.

And down at State U., Coach Moneybags will tell the audience at his news conference that the Fighting Shamrocks have filled another need, that this kid Blue Chip can run the 40 in 4.25 seconds, so Disco Tech had better beware next season.

Thankfully, it wasn't like that at Heat FC's national signing day.

Heat FC is one of those local youth programs with teams traveling around the country during summertime playing soccer. The team I went to see was the Under-18 Elite Clubs National League girls. There are 19 players on this Heat FC elite squad, and all 19 will be attending college on scholarships.

This is the best reason yet for traveling around the country during summertime playing youth soccer.

The local kids signed their commitment letters Thursday at Red Rock Country Club.

OK, so the setting was a little pretentious.

But I remember receiving Holy Communion for the first time, and it was such a big deal that mom and dad took me to the nicest restaurant in town afterward. You gotta have faith, but it takes talent to score a goal with one's head while two defenders are bearing down hard in the 18-yard box.

So in this case I'm OK with dinner at a country club.

"The focus of what we're doing is exactly this," a tall man with a fashionable 5 o'clock shadow was telling me about the college scholarships as well-wishers signed these big placards with the logos of the colleges the 19 Heat players would be attending in fall.

This was Tom Amick, the Heat coach and program director. In college, at UC Davis, he was an All-American center back. The center back's responsibility is real estate, zoning and land use in front of the 'keeper. Now Amick is an attorney specializing in those areas.

"The college coaches are naturally attracted to the best players and where the best players are going to be," he said. "We'll get upwards of 300 college coaches to watch us play (against other elite teams). Winning is nice, but this is the most important item. A lot of these kids would not have the opportunity to go to college if not for this program."

Amick's assistant is a native Las Vegan named Amanda Schmutz, who is 37 but looks younger. She, too, was an excellent soccer player when she was young, but that was before the advent of club programs like Heat FC. She did not get to play in front of 300 college coaches during summertime.

So she went to Utah.

She did not go to North Carolina, which has won the women's NCAA College Cup 21 times in 31 years. Mia Hamm went to North Carolina.

And now Dominique Romero of Heat FC will go there, too.

Lauren Kaskie will go to UCLA; Kaitlyn Fahrner to Oklahoma; Tara LeBaron to Cal State Fullerton; Isabella Sorrentino to San Diego; Zoey Stephenson to Lamar; Lynsey Ng to Iowa State.

Courtney Anderson and Dakota Blazak will go to UNLV; Ashlee Beckwith and Alexa White to North Dakota; JennaKaya Charles, Meghan Cordero and Mariah Olive to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Alyssa Gomez will go to Southern Utah; Melissa Canizalez to New Mexico State; Brandy Sanchez to Montana State; Breana Ray to Rogers State. Ayana Williams will go to Tyler Junior College, and who knows where from there?

Some are huge schools, some have an ampersand in their name. All field women's soccer teams. All will provide a free, or mostly free, education.

And this is why asking your mom to hold a bake sale so you can travel in a van to Phoenix to play soccer with your chums makes a certain amount of sense.

Were it not for Heat FC, Mariah Olive probably would be learning about the Louisiana Purchase at a community college close to home, and where's the fun in that?

"Going to college, playing soccer, that's what gets me up in the morning," Olive said.

She will study corner kicks and American history at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which is on an island, Ward Island on Oso Bay, where I'm told the breezes off the Gulf of Mexico are gentle and warm, except during a hurricane.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

 

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