(From the Daily Press)
To Scott Cooper, it was a simple text, but to former Tabb High School soccer standout Rachael Brewer, it meant a chance to continue playing the sport she loves.
At the beginning of Brewer's first practice with her U-18 Virginia Legacy club team last June, first-year coach Cooper walked up to Tabb's then-rising senior Brewer and asked if she had any collegiate aspirations.
Brewer said she did, but had no idea where to start. That's when Cooper pulled out his cellphone.
"He didn't know who I was, whether I was good or bad," Brewer said. "He said 'don't worry about it' and texts the coach at (Christopher Newport University) and says to him, 'Hey, I have a girl here you should check out.' He put his name out there for me, and I couldn't be more grateful."
Cooper said he felt no worry getting in touch with Captains coach Dan Weiler about Brewer — the defender had a history with Virginia Legacy that preceded itself. The Williamsburg-based club has helped more than 275 players reach college rosters since 2000, according to technical director Bobby O'Brien.
Whether the club can help kids with contacts, physical conditioning or playing time, O'Brien said Legacy would be the players' "personal assistant" in reaching their potential.
"We're here for them," he said. "So many people are playing soccer at such a high level that we'd rather sit with the kids and parents to face it rather than let them do it on their own."
Brewer is one of nine area players to have earned a chance to play in college this fall, including Grafton teammates Aaron Kaye (Mary Washington), Nick Dey (Earlham College) and Michael Bly (Randolph-Macon). All four competed in the Group 4A state semifinals last month in Lynchburg. All four said they received help from O'Brien and his college contacts from around the country.
"If it wasn't for Legacy, I wouldn't have been able to get to playing at the level I am now," said Bly, who has aspirations to play for the club's National Premier Soccer League team, Legacy 76, during his college offseason. "And I wouldn't have been able to get the recognition from coaches that really helped in getting recruited."
Dey praised the club's energetic atmosphere, where players of all ages are encouraged to take part in camps, drills and events throughout the year. Dey has been attending summer training since he was 15.
"It's very intense, a lot of game and small-sided competitions," he said. "They've given me a competitive mind-set where I didn't have that much before. Now, I want to get after it in practice as well as the games."
O'Brien said the numbers of young talent coming through his program show no signs of slowing. The numbers fluctuate each year, but O'Brien said Legacy typically sees 10-to-13 boys and three-to-six girls reach collegiate rosters in the fall.
"We're very honest with them, so they're not setting lofty goals too high," he said. "They need to get a well-rounded fit so they have a great experience. You've gotta have a perfect fit of educational, academic and athletic components so it works out well for them."
That's just what Brewer said she'd be walking into come August. After leading Tabb (14-3-1) to a first-place finish in the Bay Rivers District while giving up a league-low six goals in the regular season, Brewer is looking forward to contributing to the Captains.
Playing in college has been on her mind for quite some time. All it took was a text to help send her on her way.
"I didn't need any convincing," she said. "Ever since I was growing up, I had seen those players and wanted to be like them. I picked an amazing school. This isn't just a club, it's a family."