ELLA RODGERS AND DALLAS TEXANS U-16/17 HOLD STRONG AGAINST FLOODING AND ON-FIELD FOES

In the lead-up to the 2019 Spring Showcase, we're highlighting a number of stand-out stories across the Academy. In the middle of the fall season, flooding devastated the home of Dallas Texans U-16/17 defender Ella Rodgers. As she and her family rebuilt their lives, the team served as their rock through it all. You can watch Ella and the Texans take on San Diego Surf in a feature game on Tuesday, April 30 at 3:30 p.m. ET on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

By Marc P Serber

Ella Rodgers thought she was dreaming.

It was 4:30 a.m. when the Dallas Texans U-16/17 center back was snapped awake by water splashing around her room and her dogs in a frenzy.

As she wiped the sleep out of her eyes, Ella realized she was in the midst of a flood from a water-main break that would ultimately pump 500,000 gallons of untreated water into her family home, rendering it unlivable.

While Ella felt her whole life collapse around her, she got a weird, unprompted text message from teammate Breana Thompson. It simply read, "Hey, is everything okay?"

It was just the beginning of the hardship to follow, but in that moment, Ella knew that she was going to be okay.

"I remember when I got that message, I was just like, 'Ok! She has my back'," Ella recalls. "I told her everything. She told me that anything I needed; she was there. We hung out the very next day and she was by my side the whole time."

It wasn't just "Bri" who would help Ella through one of the toughest times of her life. It was the entire Dallas Texans organization- players and parents- who would rally around the Rodgers as the family moved to a hotel, Ella's aunt's house and eventually an apartment while they rebuilt their home and their lives.

While the circumstances were more dire than usual, it's just one of many times that the Dallas Texans have come together both on and off the field.

"We always kind of run with the philosophy, 'It takes a village,'" Ella's father Robbie Rodgers said. Robbie, 48, had lived in the house with his mother for the last 45 years.

"Luckily, we have a very positive and impactful village. They're incredible people. From everybody who came to help us out and get stuff out of the house, to those taking care of Ella on team trips, to having the opportunity to come and pray with us and do some different things. It really helped and impacted us quite a bit. It was awesome to have that village."

On the field, the casual observer wouldn't be able to tell that anything had gone wrong.

The team's second leading scorer, midfielder Hannah Boughton, stepped in to drive Rodgers to the majority of practices and games.

Ella's attitude impressed assistant coach Kioumars Rezaie throughout the ordeal. With the leadership that she continued to show, those unaware wouldn't have had any inkling of her current tribulations.

"We're lucky to have her," Rezaie. "We're looking for more players like her to be part of this community."

The Texans (currently sixth in the nation and second in the Frontier Division) went 1-2 in league play during November, but put together a fabulous Winter Showcase, going 2-0-1 with dominant 6-1 and 4-0 victories to close out 2018.

"The Showcase events are probably my favorite part about the season," Ella said. "We're there for about a week and it's just us and the team. It's just us playing soccer, nothing else. We're having fun together. We don't have to worry about anybody else around us. It's just us playing soccer, spending time together and bonding."

But despite the stellar performance and the seemingly breezy attitude on display in Florida, a major absence plagued the team.

Cathy Rodgers isn't just Ella's mom, she's the mother of the entire team. As team manager, she plans every trip, sits on the bench for every game and stands ready whenever any of the girls need to talk.

"Spending time with my mom on the field is incredible," Ella said. "Not just because she's my mom, but because whenever I'm down or anyone else is down on the team, she's there. She's teaching me how to be there for the girls on my team, how to encourage them and lift them up like she does so well."

Without their manager, it seemed like there was a gaping hole on the Texans bench, but the other parents stepped up. They did whatever Cathy had delegated to them, whether it was to create travel itineraries, print out the roster and schematics, make sure the girls were fed, create team bonding activities or anything else that popped up.

While Cathy's role was aptly filled, the girls made sure she was still a part of the trip.

"They're so sweet, they called me while I was at home taking care of the house with my husband," Cathy said. "They wanted to make sure that everything was okay with me. They would call and tell me stories about what was happening with them."

"I manage them because I love the girls. They're like my other daughters."

Now, the Texans are preparing for the Spring Showcase in Colorado and Ella's family works every day to get their lives back to "normal". The whole process has served as a reminder of the real reason that these girls and their families dedicate so much time and effort to the Texans and the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.

"I think the end goal is just to see your daughter succeed and be a better person in the long run," Robbie said. "If she gets the opportunity to play at the college level, the national level, that's great. That's just icing on the cake, but to watch her grow as an individual and be able to become a leader has been remarkable. She gets so much out of each and every time she steps out on that field and has the opportunity to learn what it's going to take her in life."

Through everything that has happened since November, Cathy has seen Ella's love for her teammates and the fierce competition in the Academy push her daughter reach new heights.

"I've seen that Ella relies more on her teammates now and pushes herself to a different level. Through trials and tribulations, she knows that she can get through anything after this," Cathy said. "I think that before everything she's been through, she didn't trust herself as much. Now she knows that she can get through anything because of her friends and because she knows that the parents are there for her."

"That is what the DA does for these girls," Cathy Rodgers concluded. "It gives them confidence and pushes them to another level."

Ella eloquently summarized what her teammates and the Dallas Texans community mean to her in an essay she wrote at the request of head coach Hassan Roudaki:

I have realized that what really makes us a strong and successful team is our willingness to fight through anything together. Each of us has had rough moments on and off the field. Size and age are not factors when we have one another helping us through life's moments. We have proven through every test why we are the team we are. Last year, we went to the Final Four as one of the youngest teams and we've maintained top five in the DA standings for two years in a row. Our GRIT and support bring us together in a family-like atmosphere. Any one of us will tell you that we are a family and we get knocked down, but we will always bring each other back up. Even when you lose your home to a flood and move multiple times in a month, it's the team that kept me going and feeling as though life would be normal again.

In the end, soccer is a metaphor for life, a vehicle to learn its lessons. Through trials, tribulations and a willingness to go through it together, Ella Rodgers and the U-16/17 Dallas Texans are slowly mastering it both on and off the field.