HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Dan Jackson isn’t playing with his local club soccer team ― FC Hawaii ― or for Punahou’s intermediate squad, the 14-year-old puts in private practice time.
“On my own, I always go into my yard to just kick the ball around to get technically better,” he said.
Dan is hooked on the game, and he’s also a rising star in U.S. Club Soccer.
In his age group, he’s now considered one of America’s elite center-midfielders.
"You have to make a lot of smart plays and smart passing," he said.
Scouts from U.S. Club Soccer recently selected Dan and 17 other 13- and 14-year-olds for its elite iD2 developmental team.
It's a big deal for serious soccer playing teens. Hundreds of players tried out in mainland camps.
“They concentrate on this age bracket because U.S. Soccer is learning that this is their development start. They like to get them in, recognize talent and groom them to eventually play on the world stage,” said Dan’s mother, Allison Higa.
On a recent trip to Belgium and France, the U.S. team played against top international competition to expose the players to the pace of the European game.
“Going to Europe everyone was smaller, except they were more technical and fast with the ball,” Dan said.
The trip was also a sightseeing and cultural experience for players and their families, and a character builder for the kids.
"What we learned from the coaches is character really counts," Higa said.
Dan started playing soccer when he was 5. He’s super serious about the sport.
"My goal would be to either play in a college, in a Division I college, or to play professional in the MLS or even better in Europe," he said.
He’s already taken a big step in that direction. He recently took part in a camp held by the Seattle Sounders pro club for its developmental program.