At DaMarcus Beasley's annual winter soccer camp at the Plex North on Friday, Beasley met with not only the kids there to learn but also with the next rising soccer players to come out of Fort Wayne.
Akil Watts, who this summer signed a professional contract with Real Club Deportivo Mallorca in Spain and is a member of the United States U19 national team, and Amelia White, a freshmen at Homestead and member of the United States U17 national team, were at the camp.
It's almost like a passing of the torch.
At 36, Beasley, a Fort Wayne native and member of the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer, said he plans to play for one more year.
Watts and White are the next big thing.
“For one, they're from my home of Fort Wayne, but at the same time they have the same drive and attitude,” Beasley said of Watts and White. “Their dream is to play in a Word Cup, and they have all the tools to accomplish that, and to be from our little town of Fort Wayne, it's great to see.”
Watts and White grew up playing at the Plex and coming to Beasley's camps and academies. While the star-struck appeal of Beasley has worn off for White, she said she's just pleased to be in the same conversation as two of the best athletes to come out of the city, as well as Sarah Killion, a Bishop Dwenger graduate who play profession and was unable to make the event.
“It's really an honor to see how far they've come and progressed, and how I can make a name for myself as a player,” White said.
White helped lead the Spartans to a Class 3A state finals appearance, losing to Carmel 2-1 in overtime. She missed the first portion of the season playing with the U15 team in China, where it won the CFA International Women's Youth Football Tournament Weifang 2018.
White said she admires that Beasley plays host to these camps to help grow the game of soccer.
“Indiana and Fort Wayne isn't really known for soccer, so just having all these national players I think it just inspires the younger kids that it is possible and you just have to utilize what you're given and work hard and you'll get the results.”
Beasley thinks Watts has the makings to accomplish more than he has in his career and that he and White both inspire him.
“For me it's cool to see someone from the same town doing the same things that I did, but doing it better,” Beasley said. “He's in Europe at a younger age than I was, and I think he's going to be a better player than I was.
“He's got a good head on his shoulders and best thing about it he's from Fort Wayne.”
Having been in Spain for two months now, it has been a learning curve for Watts, but he's loving playing in a country where soccer is everyone's game.
“I have to find my comfort zone again,” Watts said. “There's the language barrier right now, so I'm trying to learn the language the best I can to understand the game.”
Watts rejoins the U19 team Friday in Florida for camp but was glad to come home for a brief visit.
Beasley is committed to growing the game in Fort Wayne and the Midwest and said these camps will only get bigger even when he retires.
“We want to make the Beasley school one of the biggest in the area and Midwest,” Beasley said. “We have the same vision as every small city in America – we want to see soccer grow.”
“I hope one day I'll be alive to say I was a part of the movement of soccer in this country.”
Now Watts and White are part of it too.