By Justin Reid

Columbia, MD – Every year millions of children play soccer in the U.S. and around the world. Today, with child obesity, various diseases, and the high demand of exercise for young and old people, soccer has evolved as one of the best sports to participate in. It continues to have an abundance of benefits that have been utilized for youth players during and after their playing careers. Players have used soccer as a tool to help them start businesses, earn medical degrees, and even attain professional soccer contracts. But for one young man, currently a 29 year old Commercial Property Consultant living in Australia, born and raised in Columbia, MD, one soccer tournament in California would change his life forever.

Ahhh!! Soccer tournaments. Players love them because they provide  new experiences, whether playing in different states or playing against different competition. Some parents on the other hand dislike them because they can be very expensive depending upon travel and lodging.  According to 20-year Maryland youth soccer coach Myron Garnes of Bowie, “When players play in out-of-state tournaments there is always a sense of excitement. The benefits of youth soccer are tremendous it curtails exposure to various parts of the nation and world. It helps to form bonds between people of different countries, and it helps players to be seen by scouts especially through tournaments.”

In 1998, Goalkeeper Andrew Essey travelled with Myron Garnes’  boys U-17 Columbia Santos team to play in the California Cup in San Bernadino, Calif. Following the second game of group play, Essey and his teammates returned to their hotel to rest up for the following day’s games. Every youth soccer player always finds it when away at a tournament, that of course being the pool, and for Essey that was no different.  Essey, 17 at the time, met a 16-year-old young woman named Danielle De Lapp from Sydney, Australia who had been vacationing with her parents.

“The first time I saw her in the foyer of the hotel I thought wow! That girl is incredible. Then I saw her sitting by the pool, and thought I would go introduce myself,” said Essey. So he did just that.

His team made it to the semi-finals of the California Cup that year, and prior to the conclusion of the tournament the young woman returned to Australia, but they both stayed in contact with each other. According to Essey, “we kept in contact via letters, and phone calls. She visited [me] on her way to Greece in 2000 just before I left for Radford [University]”, where Essey was a 4 year letter-winner from 2000-2004.

“It was difficult to stay in touch because of the distance, and the understanding that it would be very tough to make a relationship work.”

Five years after the tournament, at the age of 21, De Lapp moved from Sydney to Columbia to be with Essey. They spent two years in Columbia together, and both have since moved back to Australia where the happy couple married in November of 2008, exactly 10 years after they first met.

This is one of the many success stories that happens off the soccer field that provides everlasting memories. Pele, the great Brazilian soccer player once said, “Every kid around the world who plays soccer wants to be Pele. I have a great responsibility to show them not just how to be like a soccer player, but how to be like a man”. If you have a success story through soccer similar to that of Andrew and Danielle Essey’s, email us at


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