Summer is a time for fun, relaxation and playing soccer against some of the best players in the country.
Maybe the soccer part isn’t for everyone but for Lipscomb’s Ethan Summers and Omar Djabi, the summer months have been filled with soccer at the highest levels.
Summers is playing in the Premier Development League (PDL) for the Ogden Outlaws, while Djabi has been in Alabama with the Rocket City United of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). The summer leagues, which run from late April into mid-July in some cases, take select players from various colleges around the country and put them together in a professionally-structured environment that aids players who want to play professionally after college.
For Summers, this was his fifth stint playing PDL ball. After being held out of action the entire 2011 college soccer season, Summers used his summer ball experience to get back into top form as he gears up for his senior season.
“It was good to get back in the flow and play every week,” Summers said. “Getting back on that schedule and playing consistently will be huge for me as we head into the fall.”
Summers was a captain and elder statesman for the Outlaws. On the flip side, Djabi was the youngest player on his team. The 18-year old from Franklin often went up against players that were 25- or 26-years old, yet still showed enough poise and promise to make eight appearances and six starts.
“Being the youngest was hard to get used to,” Djabi said. “I had to work harder to prove to the team and coaches that I had what it took to be on the field. With everyone fighting for a spot, the level of competition was really high.”
Competition was fierce, with players constantly vying for the 18 roster spots for each game.
“It’s cutthroat,” Summers said. “A lot of these guys are trying to make soccer a career right now. There’s no way we could take a day or a play off. It’s a very tough environment, especially on younger players.”
Djabi, who was a freshman last season, agrees.
“You could feel the tension during practice,” Djabi said. “We had to prepare each week with new tactics. Even though it was hard to manage, we did great with it and finished second in the conference.”
With little time to prepare, teams take shape quickly and players have to get to know one another on the fly.
“It was hard for me to get used to a new team,” the admittedly shy Djabi said. “But our chemistry was so good. Most of us lived together and were around one another all the time. Everyone would joke around and have fun and that’s how we were able to build chemistry so quickly.”
As a veteran, Summers was relied on to help his team gel quickly.
“The chemistry is huge,” Summers said. “Guys come from all over to play at this level. Everyone is so focused that it’s easy to get all the guys on the same page. I got to know a couple of guys from Bradley and Central Arkansas that we (Lipscomb) will play this year.”
The level of play is one of many factors that draws Summers back every summer.
“It’s so much quicker and more physical,” Summers said. “The skill level is similar individually, but every team is stacked and that makes games that much tougher.”
In his first summer of competition, Djabi feels that the competition and coaching made him a better player.
“I learned a lot from the coaches and the other players,” Djabi said. “I’m better than I was when I started the summer. I think I’ll come to Lipscomb this fall a lot more prepared.”
Summers appreciated the opportunity to play a leadership role.
“It’s nice to be looked up to,” Summers said. “I’ve learned a lot and got to pass that on to the younger guys. It just fits now that I’m older, to be able to set the young guys straight.”