By Christine Bryant
A dream for many athletes, representing their country in a global tournament is something a Grove City girl can now check off her list of goals.
Over the holiday break, 13-year-old Caitlyn Chittum was chosen to play for the U.S. Youth Futsal National Team during the International Friendly games in Canada.
Out of the 5,000 kids who tried out for the team, she was one of 72 players chosen to represent the United States.
Originally chosen as an alternate, Chittum received an email Dec. 8, calling her up to play on the U.S. National Team in international matches against Canada.
“It was an awesome and amazing experience,” the 8th-grade student at Brookpark Middle School said. “I was very proud to represent not only Ohio, but also the USA.”
Futsal is similar to indoor soccer, though is played on a hard court and uses a special futsal ball that is filled with foam. This makes the ball heavier and have less bounce on the hard playing surface.
A soccer player for seven years and a futsal player for two, Chittum spent about a week in Montreal, beginning the day after Christmas. Though central Ohio recently experienced an arctic blast, Chittum says Canadian temperatures were challenging.
“We had to deal with the freezing cold temperatures up there,” she said. “We were under extreme cold warnings and the temperature with wind chill was -45 degrees.”
Even so, she says the trip was an incredible experience, especially having the opportunity to meet other players who came from as far west as California to as far east as Massachusetts.
“I made several new friends on the trip and we exchanged Snapchat usernames to keep in touch,” she said. “One girl on my team spoke Ukrainian and was trying to teach it to us.”
Kristen Chittum, Caitlyn’s mom, said her family was “beyond excited for the opportunity for her to represent the U.S.”
“She was disappointed when she was chosen in July as an alternate for the trip, but she didn’t let it stop her,” she said. “It made her work and train harder in both futsal and soccer.”
Her love for and desire to play soccer, however, wasn’t always in the cards. Chittum only started playing after she broke her arm in gymnastics doing a cartwheel.
“We decided her gymnastics career was over, so we tried to find something new and turned to soccer,” her mom said. “Looking back over the years, it has been amazing to see how she has transformed as a person, a leader and a player.”
In addition to playing locally for the 03/04 Columbus Futsal girls team, Chittum also plays soccer for the Club Ohio U14 Hilliard team. Her goals this year include making the Grove City High School girls soccer team, the U.S. National Futsal team and again making the Ohio South Olympic Development Program State Team, which she was part of in 2016 and 2017.
“I love soccer and futsal and want to be the best player I can be for these teams, and represent my school, my state and my country,” she said.
Down the road, Chittum says her goal is to become a sports medicine doctor.