TREMONT — Henry Lester helped his soccer team win a national championship and still has a month to go before celebrating his 13th birthday.
As a member of the Global Premier Soccer Maine Phoenix U13 boys team based in Portland, Lester traveled to Aurora, Colo., the third week of July. In the five-day, five-game tournament he scored eight of the team’s 16 goals to help them win the US Club Soccer National Cup XVII Premier Group Championship.
“It’s just cool to experience all the different teams from across the whole country,” said Lester who scored two hat tricks in his team’s first two games of the tournament.
Love for the game began in the backyard. Inspired by a neighbor who played soccer, Lester began kicking the ball around with him.
He began playing with Acadia Fire Soccer Academy at 6 years old. Founded by Michael Curless, the club focuses on a style of skilled ground play vs. lots of aerial passes. Hugo Meisl, the Austrian National Team’s coach from 1913 to 1937, developed the style with soccer pioneer, Jimmy Hogan.
During his seven years with the local soccer club, Lester has developed his skills as a striker and mid-field player.
On the front line Lester has reaped rewards by way of goals, which may be why he favors being in the striker position more than mid-field. A predominantly right-footed kicker, Lester is working on making his left foot just as strong.
“I just have a lot of fun,” he said. His personal record for juggling is 124 hits without the ball touching the ground “I just try new moves and keep trying them until I perfect them.”
One of Lester’s favorite things about soccer is the number of different ways there are to play the game. “It’s not as straightforward, I think, as other sports.”
For the last three years, he has traveled to Portland to play for the Global Premier Soccer club, on top of continuing to play on an Acadia Fire team.
“I travel the farthest [for practice],” he said. “There are kids from New Hampshire that come. [The club offers] a lot of opportunity for international play.”
Curless recommended Lester try out for the state’s Olympic Development Program. He went through four rounds of try-outs outside of Maine to make the Eastern Region team. 16 players from a pool of 500, drawing from Maine to West Virginia, were selected.
In addition to soccer, Henry also plays basketball, baseball and the piano. He’ll be a seventh grader at Pemetic School this fall.
When asked about soccer aspirations, he said, “I would love to play college soccer and see where it goes.”
“This tournament is one of the biggest in the country and to win it is an honor that these boys should carry with them for a long time,” Coach Joshua Thornton said. “Henry is a phenomenal player with an amazing eye for goal. He was instrumental in us making the playoff rounds. We hope to go back next year and reclaim out title.”