My name is Heiko Schultz, and I play center-midfield for the LA Surf U14 US Soccer Development Academy Team. Thank you for visiting my page. After telling you a little about myself, and my team, I will ask you to please donate to this campaign to (a) promote concussion awareness and (b) help my team to play at the highest level by travelling to the Heart Of Midlothian Tournament in Edinburgh to play against Dortmund, Juventus, Arsenal and other European top-tier academy teams.
About me: I'm 13 years old, wear #6, play center midfield (either holding or attacking), and am in in my third year of this US Soccer Development Academy program. Outside of soccer, I am an 8th grader at Polytechnic School in Pasadena, where my parents say I am thriving.
An important thing to know about me is that I recently recovered from a pretty bad head injury. On April 9, we scrimmaged at practice. I challenged a teammate for the ball as he was shooting on goal. Although I ducked, the ball hit the back of my head above the ear. It hurt -- badly. I never lost consciousness. Nor was I dizzy. My concussion symptoms of dizziness and fatigue came on over the next two days. Our pediatrician thought it all very common. But I was slow to improve. The local neurologist also thought it all very common. But after three weeks, on various medications and diets, I was no better. Then, over the course of three days (and about five weeks after my injury), I lost my balance. I could not stand or walk. Over the two weeks that followed, I suffered debilitating migraines. No medicines would work; I lay in bed for hours each evening in immense pain. This was frightening. The local neurologist was at a loss.
Head injuries can be very complicated and receiving help for nuanced cases can be shockingly difficult. Los Angeles has some of the best pediatric medicine in the country, but it took all of my parents' efforts -- and those of their friends and colleagues -- for me to be accepted as a patient at the UCLA Sports Brain Injury Clinic. There, I met regularly with a team that included a neurologist, neuropsychologist, physical therapist, and occupational therapist. They were supported by a cardiologist and rheumatologist.
Slowly, step-by-step, the UCLA team helped rewire the connections in my brain so that my mind and body would no longer associate exertion, however minimal, with pain. If I could read for three minutes before it hurt, they pushed me to read for five. Then seven, then ten. They treated me for POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) to help with my balance, as my brain was sending the wrong signals to my heart as to where to pump blood when I tried to stand. And when I could stand, they challenged me to walk, first around my dining room, then twice around, then adding the kitchen and breakfast room, then laps around the downstairs. You get the idea. Soon I was walking around the block. Then I was walking around the block, but without holding on to my Papa's or Mama's arm. Then they had me run for 10 seconds. Then 30 seconds.
I missed the last two months of 7th grade, the remainder of that soccer season, and in all I was pretty much out of it for 4.5 months. It was horrible. During that time, I became very sad. My mantra: "I just want to play soccer again."
And that's what I am doing now. My parents suggested I run, or maybe play tennis, or consider some other sport or hobby. But I love soccer and think I am, and can be, a very special player.
I play at the highest level that a 13-year-old can play in the United States, which means in the US Soccer Development Academy program. You've heard of the LA Galaxy and LAFC; they each traditionally have "academy" teams at each age level, used to develop future professionals. Because there aren't enough MLS teams to allow a league comprised solely of MLS-based academy teams, US Soccer (the governing body in the United States) created the Development Academy program to allow the most capable local soccer clubs to be part of this program.
My club is LA Surf (formerly known as LA Premier). I have played with this club since I was 8 and am now in my third year at the "DA" level. I'm the only player on my team to always have played with this team.
My teammates are exceptional, both in how well they play and in how dedicated they (and their parents) are. Tito, our goalie, drives from Bakersfield. (We practice four days a week near Pasadena and play once a weekend, all year long). Darwin comes from Lancaster. Favio is from Long Beach. Peter from Santa Monica. Why go so far each day for soccer? This team, and this program, some hope, is the path to become a professional or to go to college or hopefully receive a college scholarship.
Our club is a non-profit organization (a 501(c)) the purpose of which is to promote youth soccer. Nobody on my team pays anything to be on the team. The club also gives us uniforms and practice gear, makes field space available, and we have a coach who is just about a professional (he coaches the men's team at Occidental College). This club is a blessing. And much of its functioning and the support it provides is made possible by donation. (So you know, the club has many other teams at lower levels, and those teams do pay for uniforms and registration and all those things.)
The club unfortunately cannot pay for an opportunity we have for April of next year: our team has been accepted to play in the Hearts of Midlothian Tournament in Edinburgh, Scotland. We will play, if we can go, against our European peers from teams including Juventus, Dortmund, Arsenal, Celtic and Liverpool.
This kind of trip is traditionally part of the academy programs that the LA Galaxy and LAFC have. The idea is to travel, to see some place that is very different, to live in dorms with players of our age from teams in Germany, England, or Italy, and to play against teams that have very different playing styles. For most of my team, this will be their first trip out of the country.
The entire trip, including airfare, costs $3615 per player. The club is supporting us with winter clothes and helping in fundraising, but the rest is up to the families. My family is fortunate to be able to pay my cost, but I am doing my best to fundraise for my teammates. They supported me when I was hurt and down and sad. They are my friends. And we are a team.
The other part of my fundraising is to promote concussion awareness. My team already tests each player at the beginning of the season for their baseline brain function, with the idea that if we get hurt then that might be helpful for diagnosing an injury. So it is already doing some good work, but there is so much more to do, both in terms of education and in helping those hurt get the help they need. I have asked that a part of what I raise go to this purpose.
Would you please help? All donations are very much appreciated and will be tax deductible because made to a 501(c) charitable organization. My Papa says that I should challenge lawyer friends to please consider donating consistent with their hourly rate. A soccer game is 90 minutes. Will you donate 90 minutes' worth of your time? (Halftime is 20 minutes; so even better if you donate commensurate with 110 minutes -- call it two hours . . . .). If you do, please email my Papa (email@example.com) or Mama and tell them your shirt size, because we would like to thank you with an LA Surf t-shirt. But of course any amount is appreciated.
Thank you for reading this. I hope you think this a good cause and will support it. For me and my team, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it will not be possible without your generous support.