Sherando’s Laing plays soccer in France with state ODP

Sherando freshman soccer player Ethan Laing was recently a part of the state Olympic Development Program team that played in France for 10 days. It was Laing's second trip to Europe through the ODP. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – For the second straight year, Ethan Laing got to experience a taste of Europe.

The Sherando freshman recently played for the state Olympic Development Program soccer team in France. Last year he was part of the team that went to Germany and the Czech Republic.

Laing said he found out in January that he was on the team and was shocked that he was one of 18 players selected for a second-straight year.

“That blew my mind, because the year before I was just so amazed by that,” Laing said after school on Thursday. “I was surprised. This year I was even more surprised. It was just crazy.”

Laing and his teammates left Washington, D.C., on March 27 and returned April 4.

Virginia’s ODP takes the trip every year with two boys teams and two girls teams. He said his team played four games against area French teams and won them all. They stayed in Paris for part of the trip and in Bordeaux, France, for the second part.

Laing said that he was surprised at how big the crowds were for the games that they played.

“It’s just a whole different culture,” Laing said. “And the kids they just play a whole different style. The culture of soccer is different there.”

Laing said that the team did a lot of shopping and sightseeing on the trip, including seeing the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame de Paris.

“We were always moving, always doing something to keep us busy,” Laing said.

He said two of his favorite things to see were Notre-Dame de Paris and the Great Dune of Pilat, which was in Bordeaux.

“Notre-Dame, that was really unique and different,” Laing said. “It’s amazing how everything is there. In Bordeaux, we went to the Great Dune of Pilat, which is massive. And it’s just beautiful because on your left side you see a massive forest and then on your right side you see ocean. And it’s just insane. It was a great experience.”

Laing said that many of the people they met knew some English, and if you pieced your words together, they could understand what you were saying.

He said that he also enjoyed the food and that crepes were his favorite thing to eat.

“The food was good,” he said. “It was really unique. I thought papaya was just a Spanish dish, but I guess it kind of blended with the French culture because after one game we got to go eat with the other team and eat some of the food that they usually eat. And they had a massive dish of papaya. It was just insane because it was shrimp, octopus, squid, rice. It was just really neat. We just tried to eat all the food that they usually eat around there.”

Laing said that this year’s trip to France felt different from the one that he took last year to Germany.

“Germany just felt like it had more of a small-town vibe,” Laing said. “People were just closer and always saying hi to each other. As with France, you see people on the street and you didn’t really say hi. It’s more of a like a big city atmosphere.”

Laing said his favorite game was the second one that his team played. However, he said the fourth game was also special because he was selected as a captain for the contest.

“I was really grateful for that,” Laing said of being chosen as a captain. “It was just really neat, because our coach usually doesn’t tell you who is captain until the game. I was just so excited that game and felt like such a leader and really happy and blessed to be there.”

Laing said he and his teammates bonded quickly. They had a few practices before the trip and represented the state in a few games against other states two weeks before leaving for France.

He said he played center back for his ODP team, and plays center back and center mid for his Winchester United Travel team.

Laing said he played at left forward for Sherando in the team’s opening game this season, but he doesn’t mind playing any position that he needs to.

He said he’s been playing soccer since he was young and has always enjoyed the sport.

Laing said that this high school season is special for him because he gets to play alongside his brother Nathan, a junior on Sherando’s team.

“He’s helped me a lot,” Ethan Laing said of his brother. “He really is just one of my biggest advocates, and he just pushes me. I’ve always just wanted to be like him ever since I was little. He’s just like my role model.”

Ethan Laing said that he’s been very thankful for the opportunity to travel to Europe twice through the game of soccer.

“It’s meant the world to me, but I wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for my parents, my brother and all these people that have pushed me,” he said. “My coaches in the past have helped me so much and so has my teammates.”