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David Parent is the youngest player on the Lakenheath Eagles base soccer team.
David Parent is the youngest player on the Lakenheath Eagles base soccer team. (Ben Murray / S&S)

RAF LAKENHEATH — Years ago, before his family moved back to England, 18-year-old David Parent used to get pushed off the ball a lot.

A thin, wiry soccer player with good foot skills, he used to play a more genteel version of the game — a more, well, American version.

“I always got knocked off the ball — always,” Parent said of his early years as a soccer player.

But after returning to England six years ago and joining local British teams, Parent has molded himself into a faster and more physical player, he said, assets he hopes will help him launch a career in the sport.

“The style of playing is different. It’s more aggressive, faster flowing,” Parent said of the English game. “There’s people twice my size now I can hold off the ball.”

This winter, as Parent applies to colleges in the United States where he would like to play soccer next fall, the 2006 Lakenheath High School graduate has been reviewing his past accomplishments in the sport.

It’s a history that includes membership on soccer teams beginning not long after Parent was born to an American father and British mother in Ipswich, less than an hour’s drive east of Lakenheath, near his dad’s then-duty station at RAF Woodbridge.

Parent was playing the sport as early as the age of 5 or 6, he said, and by the time the family moved to Grand Forks, N.D., he was good enough to be named to an all-state tournament of the region’s best players, where he helped the Grand Forks team win first and second place in successive years.

Returning to England as a middle school student, Parent immediately joined local youth teams as well as Department of Defense Dependents Schools squads, often playing on more than one team in the same season.

He joined the Soham and Newmarket youth teams, then played for the Mildenhall town team while also picking up accolades in the DODDS system, where he was named to the all-conference, all-tournament and all-Europe teams in his senior year. The same year he also played for three squads simultaneously, the Mildenhall team, the Lakenheath base team and his own high school squad.

This winter, while working at the Lakenheath commissary during his gap year before college, he’s the youngest player on the Lakenheath Eagles base team, which is currently flourishing in two regional British leagues, said team coach Dennis León from the 48th Dental Squadron.

The Eagles are fourth in the Suffolk Football Association Cup and fifth in the Halls of Cambridge league, a status that is “probably unprecedented” for the base team, León said. He said Parent has helped them attain those standings with his dribbling skills and flexibility across different positions on the pitch.

“He’s very versatile, he plays a lot of positions,” León said.

One of the secrets of Parent’s success is that he is actually left-footed, a prized asset on the soccer pitch and one he hopes will make him attractive to U.S. collegiate squads, he said.

But Parent also has developed his right foot enough to allow him to play outside of his favored, left-center midfield spot, León said.

“He’s a great guy to have,” he said. “He can play almost anywhere.”

Despite his success in local leagues, Parent said he isn’t overconfident about his abilities and won’t plot his collegiate course strictly on where he can play soccer — though if a career in soccer is in his future, it’s likely to start at a school back home in the States.

“It’s just so hard over here,” he said.

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