For 11-year-old Ormond Beach resident Wyatt Wahl, soccer is everything.
Wyatt Wahl, 11, has played soccer since he could walk. He knows practically every player in England’s Premier League, their scores and statistics. And he always has a ball at his feet.
When he’s not at practice or playing in the yard of his family’s Ormond Beach home, he’s dribbling around the house. When he gets home from David C. Hinson Middle School, where he’ll soon be attending the seventh grade, he does his homework, all while dribbling a ball under the dining room table or passing it to himself from off the wall.
“This game has taken over my whole life,” Wyatt said. “Everything I do revolves around soccer.”
“He’s one of those kids who doesn’t realize how good he is. The sky's the limit for him. If he continues to play, continues to learn, continues to develop and — more importantly — continues to love the game, he’ll be able to go far.
Rodney Perry, Florida Elite coach
His favorite team is the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur. Their posters and flags plaster nearly every square inch of available wall space in his room. His favorite player is Tottenham right winger and Brazilian national team player Lucas Moura, whom he met during a trip to England for a developmental training session in March.
“I couldn’t breathe for a good 15 minutes,” Wyatt said of the meeting.
And since January 2019, Wahl has had the opportunity to train as a member of the Florida Elite Soccer Academy, which has a partnership with Tottenham.
Florida Elite coach Rodney Perry scouted Wyatt for several years before Wyatt earned a spot on the team, which features some of the best youth players in the state.
Their first interaction was about four years ago at an Ormond Beach Soccer Club tournament. Perry, a former professional player and former member of the U.S. men’s national team, was immediately impressed by Wyatt's feel for the game.
“I was really impressed with his IQ for the game, how much he understood about the game and the decision-making process that he was displaying,” Perry said. “It was like watching an adult play.”
Wyatt has grown so much in the time he’s spent with Florida Elite, according to his mother, Jessica Wahl — much in part to coach Rodney.
“Wyatt can really look to him almost as a father figure,” said Jessica Wahl, a single parent. “Rodney coaches the kids from the minute they get out of the car to the minute they get back in the car. And when they’re in games, he’s never harsh or negative. He provides positive reinforcement. It’s never with anger. Wyatt responds really well to that.”
Wyatt recently earned the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Development Program in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
From Fall 2018 through Winter 2019, he fought against hundreds of kids from around Florida for a spot. He was one of 40 players selected to play in Alabama, where played against teams from 10 other southern states in mid-July.
After a long car ride to get the University of Alabama, Team Florida lost its first game to Alabama 2-1. Florida played an indoor game against South Texas later that night and won 7-0 and beat South Texas again the next morning 10-0.
Wyatt scored his first goal of the tournament in a win against Tennessee the following day. He received a cross into the box and headed the ball into an open net.
Due to his outstanding play, he was selected to play in the regional pool. He’ll compete against 88 other kids from his age group to try to make the team.
“It’s a big commitment as a family to play this much soccer, but it’s completely worth it because it is what makes him happy,” Jessica Wahl said. “And what else could a parent want than to see your child fulfill his dreams?”
Wyatt is the same person on the field as he is off of it: He’s kind. He’s patient. He’s a good teammate. And he’s dedicated to the things he loves.
“He’s really trying to push himself to the next level," Perry said. "He lives and breathes this sport.”