Perhaps no family is more suitable for the AAA Start Your Journey nomination than the Martelli family from Gap, Pa. Up to four times a week, Domenic and his wife Jennifer are making the hour-trek to either Conshohocken or Wayne to give their 9-year-old son Luke the best opportunity possible to further develop his young soccer career.
So far, so good. Luke is currently excelling against much older competition and will be playing for Continental FC at the U11 level for Dortmund this season and is also with the Union juniors. But older competition is nothing new to Luke who got his start in the sport after his older sister Alexandria began playing – when Luke was just 4.
“When it first happened almost six years ago, we didn’t really envision it taking off like this,” Domenic said.
But Luke’s advancement in the sport can be partially contributed to a sheer dedication from both himself and his parents. Four days a week, Luke will have practice that is often times more than an hour from their home in Gap, just east of Lancaster. Then on the weekend, it’s off to wherever his club is playing. Luckily, though, his parents haven’t had to preach the importance of school during the busy schedule. Something that doesn’t surprise Domenic, a teacher.
“We’ve really worked on him with time management,” Domenic said, also noting his wife Jennifer is a guidance counselor in the same school system. “But he’s really very good at getting his work done. He has about an hour after school to get homework done before we leave and if he needs more time, he’s doing it during those hour rides. He’s good at understanding the need to get his work done.”
That or eating dinner. While the Martelli’s have loaded miles on the car, it’s also doubled as a dining room for whoever is making the daily trek with Luke.
After a two-hour practice, the family leaves the facility and heads back home. An hour later, Luke has about 15-30 minutes to settle down and get into bed.
“He really works his tail off,” Domenic said. “He wants to be a part of the Union academy and one day become a professional soccer player. That or an engineer.”
Right now, Luke is excelling in the center of the midfield, sometimes in more of an attacking role. He had 21 goals and 17 assists last season and, at the urging of his coaches, is becoming a better distributor and defender by the day to round off his game. But with the natural goalscoring and playmaking abilities, it’s no surprise who is favorite Union players are.
Even less surprising that is favorite team is the always-entertaining Arsenal. But for now, Luke is settled on taking it one day at a time. While the future is bright for the 9-year-old, he’s still just a kid.
“His grades are great and we’ve told him he can do what he wants to do,” Domenic said. “But we definitely don’t have to push him into soccer.”
This story is part of AAA’s “Start Your Journey” campaign, an effort – in partnership with the Union – to help celebrate families’ journeys in support of their young athletes…the long road trips, all-weekend tournaments, and the special bonds that are formed from the extensive time on the road. Each month, the Philadelphia Union and AAA will select an individual within its soccer network to develop a feature story on their path to success in association with the game of soccer. Additionally, fans are encouraged to share their own stories via social media using #ShareYourJourney.