Mo Keita knows the way to develop young soccer players and help them reach their full potential can only be achieved through hard work.

So it only made sense that the FC Stars soccer club tabbed him when they expanded to the “Stars North” program here in the Northern part of the state. Keita, who has been coaching and and training youngsters for the past 13 years, also owns Skillz Check Soccer Academy, which runs camps and clinics in Danvers, where skills needed to rise to the top of the sport are built through drills and instruction.

“We take players of all ages and skills,” said Keita, who was a member of the U14 U.S. national team, received a full scholarship to the University of Rhode Island and later trained in Germany with Ismanning and 1860 Munchen. “The goal is to work on all the skills needed to improve, and all aspects of the game of soccer to make the kids be more focused with the help of our instruction.”

Keita and his coaching staff present their program in a way that encourages players to use their creativity and make the drills work for them as individuals. Clinics are held locally at places like Danvers Indoor Sports and Beverly Soccer Etc., and emphasis is placed on fair play, good sportsmanship and respect.

“I really have fun at Skillz Check, and it’s helping me develop my game,” said 12-year-old Anna Edson, a seventh grader at Briscoe Middle School in Beverly. She plays center midfielder for Stars and is sometimes moved back to anchor the defense. “At Skillz Check we work with other girls in our age group. There are three different coaches, and we move around to each rotation to work on different things like passing drills and ball control drills to get better.”

Edson said she enjoys Skillz Check because she has fun with her teammates and meets other girls who are serious about the sport. Although soccer is her first love, she also runs cross country for Briscoe and came in second in the Middle School state championship. Her mother, the former Julianne Broglino, was a standout gymnast for Danvers High and in college. She serves as manager for her daughter’s Stars team.

“We work on their game year-round through indoor practice, and the most important part is the technical fine points that build confidence. We want to make them so comfortable with the ball on their foot that it becomes second nature,” said Keita, who previously coached in the Aztec program but moved to the new Stars North this past fall, where there are eight teams of all ages. He coaches the U10, U12, and U13 girls.

The U12 North United played in the Bethesda Cup Tournament in the highest flight bracket (Potomac) and had a thrilling victory in the semifinals on penalty kicks. The U13 United team came home with the championships in the U13 Liberty group. They also went to Ashland for the GPS Thanksgiving Soccer Tournament, where both the U12’s and U13’s finished second while played up a level in the Elite Class.

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