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By, Andrea Kavouklis
Larry Jackson has come a long way. Literally and figuratively. The second youngest in a family of two girls and two boys, Larry grew up in East Palo Alto, California- a part of the Bay Area socioeconomically similar to Compton. But his hard working mother- a Registered Nurse and caretaker, and father- a handyman round town, made sure LJ and his siblings had every opportunity to succeed and served as living proof of the value of hard work.
But it was LJ's godfather that first opened the door in to the world of soccer. As a registrar for the state's youth soccer association, he first proposed the idea of signing nine year old LJ up for the local soccer league. Self-admittedly, LJ was "terrible," but he stuck with it and worked at it because of his competitive nature. As a goal keeper, LJ progressed with his original team until age thirteen when he began playing with DeAnza Force 90. Simultaneously, LJ displayed promise as a basketball player. Soon after joining the new team, his coach proposed the idea of starting an academy in Lose Angeles. The team would immerse themselves in soccer, leaving little time for other sports or hobbies.
A big decision faced LJ: continue his multi-sport lifestyle or throw it all away to focus on soccer. LJ chose soccer.
So how did LJ end up at IMG Academies in Bradenton, FL? Shortly after his life with the academy team began, fourteen year old LJ was spotted by National Team scouts at an LA soccer tournament. Four months later, in January 2006, Larry arrived at IMG Academies to continue his evolution as a top level player. "I loved training everyday and being surrounded by great players. Everyone here is working towards a common goal to be at the top of their sport." Through the years, Tom Durkin's interactions with LJ have been impactful and long- lasting. "He instilled the values in me I needed to be successful. He's a tough coach but I needed that. He truly cares." LJ spent 2.5 years at the IMG Soccer Academy before graduating in 2009.
Larry's passion, competitiveness, and immersion in the soccer culture and academics played key roles in elevating him to the level of D1 athlete. He is finishing up his first year at Santa Clara University, forty minutes south of San Francisco, CA. Although the team struggled, LJ prospered as starting GK, earning his first shutout just three games into the season. LJ was also chosen for the West Coast Conference's All-Freshman team and allowed an average of 1.13 goals per game including four shutouts.
LJ is currently back at IMG to train with the Academy's USL Premiere Development League Team and help out with the summer soccer camps. And from today's news, Larry was just named to the PDL's Team of the Week.