Island Trees High School sophomore Kevin Butler was recently named to the United States Soccer Olympic Development boys (2004) national team.
The U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development program is comprised of 55 state associations across the nation. The program starts at the state level where players compete against other state teams within their region. Players are selected from the state competitions to attend the next level as participants on a regional team.
Typically, two or three players from each state might make it to the regional level selection. The next level of competition occurs with the national pool selection in which a group of national coaches select the best players from each region to compete in Florida for a spot on the U.S. National Team.
He is the first player from Island Trees and part of a very few select players from New York to ever be chosen to be a member of the U.S. national team.
“Kevin is an elite player who possesses a high level of technical, physical and mental skills necessary to compete at the highest level,” New York Olympic Development Program coach and Island Trees guidance counselor Graham Radcliffe said. “It is a pleasure to work with such a dedicated, respectful young man.”
Now, Butler is ready for the journey of a lifetime, and he spoke with the Tribune to discuss how he got to this point.
Q: How did you get started playing soccer?
A: I was about 4 years old when I got into it. My dad got me into it and I just kept on going with it from there. I was pushing myself and started when I was young.
Q: What other sports did you play before settling into a groove with soccer?
A: When I was younger, I played baseball, basketball and soccer. But what pushed me to just play soccer was that my brother did it when he was younger. He played in high school and my dad played when he was in high school. It’s what I was mainly good at over baseball and basketball. I just wanted to keep going with it.
Q: What strengths do you have on the soccer field compared to others?
A: I can be a leader and talk with my teammates often. I like to push them to go forward. It’s not about myself. I want to help the team move forward.
Q: You were named to the U.S. national team’s development program. What does it mean to have this opportunity?
A: I haven’t really thought about it yet. It hasn’t hit me yet. I’m excited to go and have the opportunity to play.
Q: What do you feel you’ve done to stand out to earn this opportunity?
A: I just really listen to my coaches. You have to keep working and push forward no matter what happens. I just keep doing what they do and put extra work in.
Q: What will you be doing with the U.S. national team’s development program?
A: Right now, we leave April 5 to go to Barcelona, Spain. We go there for about nine days, have some training and play games against teams from Spain. Then, I kind of restart with states, regionals and nationals. I think it’s just this and the national camp of 23 kids.
Q: How do you feel your community at Island Trees has supported you throughout this journey?
A: When I was younger, I used to play with the Island Trees club. Now, I’ve switched over to the East Meadow Soccer Club. I play Island Trees school soccer, too. All of my coaches have helped push me further. If I wasn’t doing good enough, they told me to keep going and strive to be the best I can.