Traveling in Italy during the summer is fun.
And, of course, playing soccer is fun.
Combine the two and it is the chance of a lifetime.
Mayfield’s Jimmy Winsman played in the San Marino Cup in Italy as a member of the U.K. Elite Soccer Club from New Jersey. (Photo submitted)
That dream became a reality this summer for Jimmy Winsman.
The Mayfield High School senior traveled to Italy and represented the United States in the San Marino Cup as a member of the U.K. Elite Soccer Club from New Jersey.
"It is one of the most exciting things I have had the opportunity to do," Winsman said. "They were the most amazing teams. We played in soccer stadiums and walking up onto the pitch from the locker rooms is an amazing sight. Soccer is so much different there than it is here. It is very intense."
The opportunity to travel and play came about after the Mayfield soccer team hosted a camp and a friend of Mayfield varsity coach Jon Caraco came to watch the Panthers' 2012 senior night match.
"We had a camp here and one of the coaches is a friend of our coach, Jon Caraco," Winsman said. "He came to watched us play on our team's senior night and he invited me and another player to try out. I had to go down to New Jersey in December for a tryout. There also were tryouts in Seattle and Dallas."
In early January, Winsman got the call that he made the team.
"We had kids on the team from Philadelphia, too, but most were from New Jersey," Winsman said. "Another kid and I were the only ones from New York."
The team gathered for practice only once while stateside.
"We only had to go down [to New Jersey] one other time after the tryout for a team practice, to get our uniforms and get everything ready," Winsman said. "The practice was a lot like the tryouts - a lot of possession drills and skills."
The team arrived in Italy in early July for the tournament featuring 75 teams from 18 countries.
"We practiced three days when we got to Italy," Winsman said. "Most of the teams we were playing have been together for years."
Winsman won a starting spot in the UK Elite center midfield.
"We won our first two games beating a team from England [Rishton United] 3-0 and then a Mexican team [Deportivo Mexico] 1-0. Then we lost 5-1 to a very good Italian team [STB Academy]. We made it into the winner's bracket with all the top teams."
The championships provided a sight Winsman will never forget as the teams entered the stadium for an Olympic-style opening ceremony.
"We walked out into the stadium where the finals were going to be played and there were all the teams from different countries all lined up," he said. "It was awesome."
U.K. Elite dropped its opening game in the championship bracket 2-0 to Serbia's Akademija Duljaj.
The team did not only play soccer while in Italy.?They also took the time to take in the sights.
"We went all over," Winsman said. "We were in Rome for part of the trip and visited the Vatican before we went to San Marino, which is almost like its own little country. We took tours as a team throughout Italy."
The opportunity also built new friendships for the Mayfield senior.
"I have added a couple of the guys as friends on Facebook and have kept touch with another midfielder from New Jersey who started with me. His name is Jimmy O'Brien," Winsman said. "All the kids were really cool."
Winsman took time to thank his friends and family at home that helped make the trip possible.
"I definitely want to thank my parents, James Winsman and Tammy Robb, and my brother Randy for helping me through this," he said. "It was a rough first experience for me being out of the country by myself. They helped me through that. I also want to thank coach Caraco for pushing me to reach for things like this in soccer. If I wasn't for him or my brother, Randy, I wouldn't be where I am in soccer right now."
Winsman said he would like to continue to play soccer on the college level after graduation from Mayfield but has not decided where.