Palisadian Spencer Howard’s hard work and dedication to the sport of soccer has landed him in the prestigious Maccabiah Games in Israel from July 17-30.
The 14-year-old has been playing the sport since he started out in the YMCA’s Itty Bitty League at age 3, before moving up to AYSO Region 69. Now an eighth grader at Paul Revere after attending Palisades Elementary, Howard is a member of Real So Cal, the Boys U14 Academy club soccer team.
Real So Cal is one of 78 teams in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, which was formed in 2007 and is regarded as the top tier of youth soccer in the country.
Still, this summer will be a new stratosphere for Howard where he represents his hometown on an international stage.
“It’s pretty cool,” Howard said. “I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve never even moved houses, so the Palisades owns a small place in my heart.” He will join fellow Palisadian and family friend Jake Feldman in Israel, as Feldman, a 16-year-old junior at PaliHi, will partake in gymnastics.
The 6’0”, 150-pound Howard trains by doing as much running as he possibly can, since he is too young to do weight training. Normally practicing five days a week, Howard, who switched to center defense less than two years ago after mainly playing forward, focuses on strength, speed and ball control. He expects to play forward or midfield at the Maccabiah Games.
As for his style of play, Howard has only one approach: “I play the game aggressively. [You have to] leave your heart on the field. Playing with Real So Cal has been really great. I’ve been with them for four years now.”
Howard will attend Palisades High this fall, but whether he plays soccer there has yet to be determined. If he plays Academy club again, there is a nationwide rule that any player who plays Academy cannot play for his high school team.
This season at Revere, which just ended, was special for Howard in that it was the only time he has been on the same team as his younger brother Justin, a sixth grader. Justin is a utility player, capable of playing any position on the team, and also plays for Real So Cal on the U12 team.
“They’re really close,” said Howard’s mother, Nicole, who created ThisWeekInThePalisades.com and is the president of the Chamber of Commerce. “I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to pass the ball or give and go with each other [again] after this year.”
Young Howard is also close to his cousin, Carl Borack, a Hall of Fame fencer who competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics. Borack also participated in the Maccabiah Games on the U.S. fencing team in 1969.
It was through Borack that Howard learned of the Maccabiah Games, for which participants must be Jewish. He participated in three two-hour tryout sessions.
Howard’s odyssey to the Maccabiah Games also included fundraising. His goal is $8,000, of which he has raised about 60 percent. One strategy has been to teach soccer to youths in the Palisades (call 310-617-7257 or 310-570-6510).
Howard also played PPBA baseball, all the way through Bronco when he was 12 and was able to travel with his team to Cooperstown, New York. He was a first baseman primarily, also pitching some. Still, Howard said he knew early on that soccer was his primary passion.
Howard’s father, David, is in charge of sales and marketing for Clear Channel’s 92.3 radio station.