Bartlett, a rising soccer star, has the national team in her sights — from afar

Quick feet: Jen Bartlett, 13, of Guilderland, has high goals for her soccer career as she is currently climbing the ranks of the United States Youth Soccer Association. Here, Bartlett dribbles down the field during a USYSA Region I Olympic Development tournament at Rider University in New Jersey last spring; her team won the event.

GUILDERLAND — Jen Bartlett has no qualms with talking about her soccer talents or future plans. She’s confident for a young woman entering eighth grade, but she’s had enough success with soccer to explain her poise.

Playing and training year round — as much as 15 hours per week — Bartlett has hopes and dreams of one day stepping onto the field for the United States National Team.

As her tryouts approach for the United States Youth Soccer Association National Team pool this December, Bartlett is on her way, but it’s a long road.

Bartlett, 13, told The Enterprise that she’s a top player for the Albertson Fury, her Elite Clubs National League team from Long Island; she competes against the best players in the country. She also plays for Capital United, a local club team.

“I’m really fast, and I like to score,” said Bartlett, who usually plays center-midfield or attacking-midfield. “I work really hard to be skillful with the ball, try my best. I give everything, every time I step on the field.”

Betsy Drambour, who has coached Bartlett on Capital United for four years, and helps train her individually, said that she would like to see Bartlett score more goals. Drambour wants Bartlett to be more selfish with the ball.

“She’s a game-changer, a playmaker, and beyond her years,” Drambour said of Bartlett. “She’ll do all of the work, get to the goal, and then dump it off to a teammate. It’s good to be unselfish, but she can go to the next level. She’s gifted.”

Bartlett started playing recreational soccer at age 5, and said it became a “serious” endeavor around age 8. She said she once scored a goal for the Albany Alleycats while doing a split.

“She’s hungry, and never tired,” said Drambour. “She has the ability to read the game better than anyone else, and, with her athleticism, she’s able to back up her vision. She has so many up sides with her intellect and technical skills.”

During Bartlett’s “grueling” four-day tryouts for the USYSA Region 1 Olympic Development team at the University of Rhode Island last July, Drambour thought she dominated as one of the best players out of hundreds in participation. Bartlett was one of 75 girls to make the cut.

“We did a lot of passing, receiving, and quick movements of the ball, but there wasn’t much conditioning,” said Bartlett of the July tryouts. “I was a lot quicker than them [the others], quicker to the ball. Being faster, I was able to get around them.”

“She’s good in tight spaces,” Drambour added.

If Bartlett passes her next USYSA tryout this December, then she’ll be one of 20 Region 1 players to compete in California next year for a spot on the U14 National Team. USYSA has four regions, and 30 to 35 players make the national team at each age level, Drambour said.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Drambour. “Honestly, they won’t truly realize what is happening until they get off that plane. From there, it’s a constant identification process.”

Drambour said that she knows of players who have made the national team one year, and then weren’t asked back for the next. “It’s very competitive,” she said. “This process takes years. Every day you’re training, eating right, and then you could get a random call to go to some camp.”

As far as Drambour is concerned, Bartlett has the sky as a limit for soccer.

“She’s portraying everything it will take — mentality, support, athleticism — you know, the village,” she said. “It’s up to her. It takes a village to get to the top.”

Bartlett’s parents, who hail from Jamaica and Guyana, will go to the ends of the Earth for their daughter, Drambour said. Bartlett’s mother, Marcia, played soccer in Jamaica.

“People don’t really understand what it takes to get something if they’re not in it,” said Drambour. “The potential is huge, and Jen’s aspirations are big. Anything could happen.”

Now eligible for Guilderland’s varsity soccer team as an eighth-grader, Bartlett feels good about her chances of making the roster. Drambour believes that Bartlett has a possibility of starting for the Dutch this fall.

“Junior-varsity wouldn’t help her,” said Drambour. “She needs to be challenged.”

Bartlett says that she needs to work on her left foot.

“I love the game, and always want to do my best,” said Bartlett. “When you love and feel everything, you keep going, and try new things. If you make a mistake, it’s OK; you can get better.”

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