MUNSTER | These Wings are actually going to fly south for the summer.
"When people ask me how Florida is during this time of the year, I usually say it's pretty cool," said Bill Dekker, director of the Midwest Wings Soccer Club. "When we're not playing, I'm usually in an air-conditioned hotel or restaurant."
The Munster-based Wings are fielding six teams — U10 and U12 girls; and U10, U11, U13 and U14 boys — to compete at the Disney Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament, July 15-20 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Though Dekker said most of the games will be played during the mornings and early afternoons before the sultry conditions take hold, U14 Wings player Michael Jonelis of Munster remembers what it was like when he watched his older brother compete in the Disney Cup.
"It was really, really hot," Jonelis said. "You've got to be in great condition to play down there."
"The competition is going to be tough," said U11 player Grace Miller.
"It may be a struggle, but we're excited about going down," said Alexis Vera, Miller's U11 teammate.
Teams don't need to qualify for the Disney Cup, but not everyone is accepted.
"We have earned a pretty good reputation over the years, so that helped us get accepted," said Dekker, whose club will be 40 years old next summer. "This will be our sixth time going down there."
There is due to be teams from 20 different countries, including Central and South America.
"I wouldn't say that I'm nervous, more like anxious," said U13 player Johnathon Spence, who has been with the Wings for five years. "You want to know where you stand against players from those parts of the world."
Former Wings player and current U13 and U14 boys coach Agustin Herrera got a taste of south of the border talent when he played semipro soccer in Mexico.
"Down there, they sometimes will take kids out of school when they're 14 to play soccer to mold them into pro players," said Chicago Heights native Herrera, who played for St. Xavier University.
"Soccer and this club helped get me into college," Herrera said. "That's why I want to give so much back."
Jimmy Williams is another former Wings player who now coaches within the club.
"Not only will this help our players improve while playing against international competition, but our coaches as well," Williams said. "I'm always learning something new, like different ways to set up a defense, while we're down there."