MANCHESTER - Last week, Hannah Pinkus, 13, achieved what has been a goal of hers for the past couple of years.
Pinkus - an eighth grade student and member of the Manchester Elementary Middle School soccer team - was one of 25 girls chosen to attend a U.S. National Team training camp in Arizona from Jan. 27-Feb. 1.
The 25 girls that were selected to advance to the National Team - four of which were goalkeepers - were chosen from a pool of 98 girls who attended the Regional Camp in Buffalo N.Y. last week. Those girls had been selected out of a pool of 500 girls who attended a camp over the summer.
Pinkus - who is one of the best soccer players in the state for her age - said her name was called midway through the list of girls who were chosen to advance to the National Team training camp - something that caught her a bit off guard.
"It was kind of shocking. I didn't really know what to think when they said my name," said Pinkus. "I kind of sat there for a second and I was like ‘what?' It was really exciting."
Pinkus had made the Regional Camp last year as well, but ultimately was not selected to attend the National Team training camp. As a result, she said she worked harder throughout the year and became even more determined to try to make it this year.
Over the past year Pinkus has been working hard to improve on her game and said she feels as though she has a greater understanding of how to play with her teammates and adapt to different situations.
"At the camp I couldn't always play my exact position so I had to shift to where I was needed," said Pinkus.
"I also think my communication with my team has gotten a lot better; being able to know what to do, who's where and who I need to pass to and just working as a whole and not as an individual."
Pinkus said she is also feeling more confident this year in part because she is a little bit older than some of the other girls who will be attending the camp, which - combined with her experience - she believes will give her an advantage.
Hannah's father, Brenton Pinkus - who played professional soccer for Crystal Palace in England - said that there will be 76 girls at the camp in Arizona. The reason that 25 girls were chosen from Region I - in which Pinkus competes - is because it is the strongest region in the country.
When she attends the camp in Arizona, Pinkus said she expects that she will be spending somewhere between one and a half to five hours a day on the field, which is what the girls did at the Regional Camp. In addition to the on field work, Brenton Pinkus said that girls who attend the National Team training camp will also be studying film.
"They do some classroom stuff too," he said. "They do some tactical stuff. They watch games, they break games down. They do a lot of classroom sessions."
While Pinkus said the camp last week was a little stressful because of all the coaches and the other girls that she was competing against, she believes the U.S. National Team training camp will not be like that because she will be training with the other regional teams throughout the country rather than competing for a team - an experience she said she is looking forward to.
"I think it will just be a good experience to train with top level girls and not [knowing] that I'm [not] competing against them for anything because it's just like a training session," she said.
When next soccer season arrives, Pinkus said she believes the experience of attending the National Team training camp will not only make her more confident on the field, but will also allow her to work that much better with her teammates because she will have had to learn how to work with other soccer players she was unfamiliar with.
While those may be some of the benefits of attending the camp, Pinkus said there are couple of other things that she hopes to take away from the experience as well.
"I'm just hoping that I can take something out of it and learn new tactics I guess because everybody [plays] differently and to get a look at how the competition is throughout the entire country and not just in the region, I can know how I am compared to the other girls throughout the country," she said.