The Arkansas Storm 11U and 12U soccer teams based out of Heber Springs showed that small town athletes can put together big performances on the national stage, competing in the 2019 Disney 3 vs. 3 Soccer Championships last month at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The 11U team finished as national runner-up, while the 12U squad took home a semifinal finish.

“I am extremely proud,” said coach Kathy Larios. “These boys play every weekend of the summer to qualify and prepare for this event. The dedication and commitment at such a young age is what brings upon success.”

Larios has made the sports complex at Walt Disney World Resort somewhat of a second home for the last decade, saying that the experience remains surreal each and every visit.

“The experience starts upon walking into the ESPN complex. Once your teams walk into the complex and see the fields you get goosebumps. It’s a great environment to play in. I’ve had teams qualify for this national championship event 10 years straight and it’s the same feeling every time with each team that attended.”

Coaching soccer has been in Larios’ DNA for the better part of 30 years, a sport that she continues to have a burning passion for, one she has shared with her own children in hopes that they would grow to have the same appreciation she has for the game.

“I started coaching youth soccer to coach my children and grow their love in the sport. I’ve played soccer through college and I wanted to share that experience with my own children. I’ve coached in Arkansas for over 10 years now but I started coaching in North Carolina over 20 years ago. My favorite part of coaching is watching the kids play. I love to watch the game and see how the kids develop their skills to the next level. I feel fortunate to be a part of their development.”

“The game of soccer is a beautiful game,” Larios exclaimed. “Not only is it a physical game, it is also a cognitive sport. When played as a team, there is nothing greater.”

When asked what made these teams so special, Larios stated that it was the unity that is shown on the field of play, as each player competes for one another.

“My teams I feel have that special ability to play as a team. It’s not an individual sport for these kids. They win as a team.”

Registration for the Arkansas Storm spring season is running from now until February 19. The Storm soccer club has been in Heber Springs for over ten years and provides and competitive play for youth ages 3-18. The office address is at Cornerstone Square at 2500 Highway 25B Suite 2B (Top Floor), with office hours running from Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. or by appointment. For more information, call Kathy Larios at 501-270-9086 or email at klarios.06@gmail