The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
by David Falk
“When I play, I feel hungry for goals,” says Northwest Christian High School’s (Colbert, WA) Jacob Weaver. “Whether it’s by my own attempts, or setting up a teammate. I also feel at home on the field. I spend more time playing soccer than any other activity I have ever pursued. I find my identity through my faith in God and soccer.”
If you happened to come across a highlight video of Jacob on YouTube then you’d be struck watching it by the ease at which he plays soccer, and how the ball sticks to his feet when he wants it to, and eases ahead of him when he wants it to.
Jacob plays club ball for Xifa Academy alongside another player we recently featured, goalkeeper Joe Scott.
Posed shots by Blake Sommers (http://outdoorflipphotography.com/ ), action shots by Erik Smith
This fall season Jacob is on a scoring spree for the Crusaders, leading the 1b/2b with 38 goals as of October 19th while adding in 12 assists. Jacob is the current Player of the Week on the Washington State 1B/2B Soccer website Washington Soccer Central for four weeks in a row, and was awarded WIAA’s Athlete of the Week honors in week six of the season. There are a few state records that he is getting close to breaking. Weaver is not only two goals away from tying the state record for goals in a season, and three goals away from the state season points record, but four goals away from his school’s record of 90 career goals. Jacob has three regular season games left to accomplish the new records.
“School soccer is a time for me to take a leadership position as captain and focus on my finishing and setting up other players to score,” Jacob says of the fall season. “In club, I have the same expectations as school, except a little bit quicker and more precise (play is required.)”
“My style of play is north and south,” describes Jacob. “I am on the field to do one thing and that is to get my team goals. Although, even with a win, sometimes I can still feel that I did not give a good personal performance. I know I played a good game when I have frustrated the defense of the opposing team to no end and the scoreboard reflects that.”
The sport of soccer runs deep in the Weaver family. Jacob’s uncle Ryan Weaver was a four-year player at Spokane’s Ferris and University High, played club ball for the Spokane Falcons and was a team-mate of MLS legend Craig Waibel. Ryan has watched as his nephew has grown into a dangerous player.
“There are a lot of players that have great foot skills; Jacob has great foot skills at three times the speed,” says uncle Ryan. “He is a natural forward who has learned to consistently position himself in the best place on the field for the current play to succeed. Once he receives the ball he usually makes the best decision of where it should go next. He sees and plays the game at the next level.”
Despite plenty of chances to celebrate goals, Ryan says Jacob keeps things in focus. “Jacob has a quiet demeanor and shows respect for others. Jacob doesn’t seek the limelight, but enjoys life through meaningful relationships with others. Having known Jacob all his life has produced many favorite moments, but some of the more meaningful have happened recently where I’ve been able to observe his relationship with his dad. Jacob honors his dad while they keep the humor alive. I’ve enjoyed seeing Jacob grow on and off the field.”
Jacob’s father Mike Weaver has spent countless hours watching his son play while also taking video and turning it into professional-quality highlight reels. Dad talks about his son the way you’d hope a dad would, with the sense of pride coming out in nearly every sentence. Pride about the young man as much as about his soccer field prowess.
“As long as I can remember,” Mike says, “Jacob has been a competitor. And not just of the sports or games variety. I’m talking about racing his younger sister up the stairs as a mere toddler, being first to get a good seat in the car, or letting a game of FIFA on the Xbox get a little too competitive. But there is also another side to Jacob. The Jacob that holds the door for you, that goes to the soccer field on a Saturday to help a new teammate learn how to improve his game, or serve at church on a Wednesday evening when he has to make the tough choice over missing a training session. There are two sides to many people, and as Jacob’s dad, I’ve had the privilege of getting a front row seat to the show.”
Mica Lamb is Jacob’s head coach at Northwest Christian High School. “Jacob is one of the most creative players I have coached,” Lamb exclaims. “From the time I met him over four years ago, I knew we had something special. He is the kind of kid that has more fun playing the game than most. He loves to dribble and lights up when he gets the opportunity to take a player on at pace. Over the years, he has evolved into a scoring machine. He is so multiple in the ways he can score. He can take the final defender on the dribble on his way to the net, he can exploit space behind defenses with his speed to create breakaway opportunities, he can find that crack of daylight and get off a shot most others could not find, and could just as easily unleash a rocket from 25 yards out to beat the keeper.”
Jacob currently plays his club soccer for coach Dave Berto (UW) at Xifa Academy in Spokane. “Playing for coach Berto has allowed to me step onto a team of all around great players,” Jacob states. “(It’s great) playing for a coach who brings out the best in my play. I have learned from Dave the more mental aspects of soccer, and focus on the tactical game and how I can influence it. Most importantly, I have fun playing for Xifa, and enjoy soccer as a whole more than ever before.”
Berto is happy to be involved in Jacob’s development, though he acknowledges that getting Weaver at this point means so many have helped him already. “It really did not take much to tap into Jacob’s untapped fever for the game,” Berto explains. “A little confidence with clear expectations will do wonders for a player like Jacob. Jacob is a player who wants to be depended on and we do. Knowing this is his role, he has set a level of expectation for himself that he owns and nobody else. All I have to do is gently remind him that this was his choice not mine.”
So what is a player supposed to do when he’s in a small town in the less populated side of the state, playing for a school with a small enrollment? Weaver’s goal is high-level college, but he’s fought these kinds of battles before.
“My greatest challenges in soccer have been my size and my fitness. Until the last year, I have not been as strong or fit as I had hoped to be. Being knocked off the ball became a struggle for me in my freshman year of high school. After switching to year round training and exercise, and adding track to my spring, I have grown stronger and quicker than ever before. Going a full 90 minutes is no problem for me and I would never call my height a disadvantage.”
One way to get the notice of a few college recruiters is score goals like crazy. Mission accomplished so far.
“College soccer is my next step. I hope that wherever God places me in this next year takes my game up another notch. I want to play soccer to the highest level I am capable of until either I cannot compete, or have reached my capability.”
“Colleges are beginning to take notice, both in and out of the state of Washington,” says Jacob’s dad Mike. “(Getting noticed) has proven difficult for many kids from Spokane and Eastern Washington, much less a soccer player at a 2B classification school. Colleges at division levels 1, 2, and 3 are actively recruiting Jacob. While no decisions have been made yet, Jacob is taking into consideration what schools he sees himself being a student athlete, not just an athlete. But suffice it to say, the future is bright.”
Coach Berto had one word to describe Jacob. “Unsatisfied. It does not matter how well he plays a game he walks off unsatisfied with his results. There was one more shot he should have made or a better pass missed. He continually looks to improve himself and is doing so every game. It does not matter the size or speed of the opponent Jacob is comfortable in his own skin and has very deceiving strength and quickness on the ball. He will be a big time catch for a university or college.”
Jacob Weaver’s soccer story is one filled with important people who took the time to teach him when he was just starting out, and who knew the right words to say to him to fan the flames along the way. It would be in many ways just your average soccer tale, if it weren’t for the fact that Jacob’s play is anything but average.
“Jacob’s story is about blazing your own trail,” Mike Weaver says. “He has played for four different soccer clubs in Spokane, and guest played for two more. He’s played futsal, five-a-side, indoor, trained in school gyms, warehouses, on snow, tennis courts, and cow pastures. He has played for Select, State Division 1 Premier, RCL Division 1, and been selected for RCL training. He’s stuck with teams that lost core players, and moved on when teams dissolved. He has retained relationships with former teammates and coaches to guest play for them from time to time as well. The key to Jacob’s soccer story is about the relationships he has made along the way as much as it about the games played on the field.”
The next chapter in the Jacob Weaver story could be establishing some new state records.