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La Jolla Athlete of the Week: Jacob Cravatt puts organization, communication to work on and off soccer field

Jacob Cravatt (left) plays in the MLS Next program through the Albion youth soccer club.
Jacob Cravatt (left), who attends Muirlands Middle School in La Jolla, plays in the MLS Next program through the Albion youth soccer club.
(Courtesy)

In soccer, the position of center back is a team’s last line of defense and first line of attack.

It’s perhaps not as glorious as being a goalkeeper or striker, but it serves to support the team’s collective efforts. A player in this kind of position needs to be especially attuned to communicating with others to achieve a common goal.

Jacob Cravatt, an eighth-grader at Muirlands Middle School in La Jolla, has played youth soccer since he was 4. A few years ago he joined Albion, a San Diego soccer club that instructs more than 1,500 athletes. He currently plays on the U-14 team in the MLS Next program through the Albion club.

MLS Next, which replaced the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in the past year, is a system of youth soccer leagues organized by Major League Soccer. For Jacob’s age group, MLS Next is the highest level of youth soccer in the country, and during his time with Albion he has shown his mettle in the aggressive environment the club promotes.

“Albion is all over San Diego and it’s very competitive,” said Jacob, 14. “I feel like that makes me a better player.”

“The competition and the level of skill [at Albion] is much higher,” said his mother, Celia. “Because of that, Jacob has improved a lot in the past three years.”

Albion coach Jorge Garcia called Jacob “the kind of player you want to work with.”

"[He] embodies the kind of sportsmanship Albion promotes,” Garcia said. “He’s so dedicated. He’s been brave and pushed himself to now being a consistent starter.”

When Jacob first began playing soccer, he was in offensive positions, focusing primarily on scoring. When he started playing on ranked teams with the Impact club of the La Jolla Youth Soccer League, his coaches recognized his perceptiveness along with his aggression. They decided to move him to the more defensive position of center back, which enables him to see the field in a broader scope and make more analytical plays.

“Offensive positions are often a technical one-vs.-one, but my position is all about reading the game,” Jacob said. “Being a center back is about putting yourself in a good position to receive the ball and move it up the field.”

“I think one of the things that I got better at with my position was being able to talk and communicate more with my teammates about what we need to do,” Jacob added. “I always try to talk to them with a positive mindset, and that usually helps boost morale on the field.”

For Jacob, that perspective extends beyond the soccer pitch. Off the field, he shows the ability to be both an organizer and effective communicator.

A few weeks ago, his Albion team was unable to practice on the field due to inclement weather. The coaches instead assigned players to study game film and present their analyses. Jacob organized his teammates’ film segments for a slideshow that impressed his coaches.

“I texted [my team] and worked to get my own individual stuff out of the way so I could help them get quality work and present it,” Jacob said. “After a day or two, I let them get to their individual stuff and put it together in a slideshow.”

Garcia said “it was great to see him in his leadership role to put the pieces together. He takes it seriously.”

Outside of sports, Jacob maintains a 4.0 grade-point average at Muirlands and competes on the Science Olympiad team. There, too, his perspective and skills as a mediator have captured attention. Julia Cardosa, who has coached Jacob in science competitions since elementary school, recalls when he and his partner disagreed about an answer they were to submit.

“Finally they checked the work and it turned out Jacob was correct,” Cardosa said. “He’s willing to listen and go along with others, to support his peers in their strategy. But when he knew he knew the right answer, he stood up for that and was very patient letting that other person check the work and verify the right answer.”

With field sports suspended most of the past year because of the coronavirus pandemic and the competitive aspect of soccer removed, Jacob kept up with conditioning and finding ways to compete with himself.

“I try to push myself every day,” he said. “We’ve been conditioning every day on our own, all based on our own work ethic. I ran miles, did sit-ups, just casual conditioning.”

Albion recently competed in a tournament in Arizona and is returning to the field in San Diego. Jacob continues to play with the club and plans to participate in the next division of the Science Olympiad.

La Jolla Athlete of the Week features athletes from all sports in high school (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We’re looking not only for the stars of competition but also for student-athletes who set an example for teamwork, academic achievement and/or community involvement. Please email your nominations, and a way to reach your nominees, to Editor Rob Vardon at robert.vardon@lajollalight.com.