Reisterstown resident and Franklin High School sophomore, Kira Cohen, 16, is one of only 24 girl soccer players from the area chosen to participate in the PhilmLand 24 elite soccer showcase in Columbia, Maryland on April 26.
The event was created by George Phillips, a Howard County-based soccer coach and trainer, to allow for lesser known Maryland athletes to showcase their skills for coaches and recruiters for college soccer teams. The name comes as a combination of the word “film,” and Phillips’ own last name, as he believes recording and reviewing video of athletes playing soccer is a critical component to improving skills.
Although Cohen is only a sophomore, she is captain of the varsity soccer team at Franklin High School, where she plays every position but goal keeper, and is already thinking about where she wants to play soccer in college. She also plays outside back and center middie on two club teams: Freedom Premier 02, that plays in the Eastern Development Program (EDP) league and Central Carroll Premier 02, a team based in Carroll County where she is coached by her father, Adam Cohen.
Cohen, who has played soccer since the age of four, said she only started to recognize her exceptional talent when she was in fifth or sixth grade. According to Adam, who has coached her from the beginning, her skills have improved so much over the years that he had to become a certified coach in order to continue training her.
“Kira really gravitated towards it. It was exciting for me because I still love the game and still play it,” said Adam. “Seeing her play it and excel and demonstrate that she has an aptitude for it is exciting.”
Though Cohen runs track and field during the soccer offseason, she has never shown much interest in other sports such as basketball, lacrosse, field hockey or softball. Though her father has encouraged her to try other sports, Cohen has only played them informally. Her passion has always been soccer.
“We would throw the football or hit the softball in our yard,” Cohen said. “But I’ve never really gotten to the point where I’ve wanted to play another sport.”
Last year, Adam tried to put together a girls’ soccer team to compete in the 2019 Maccabi Games in Atlanta. To both his and Kira’s dismay, they weren’t able to get a team of 10 girls together to compete in the 7 vs. 7 tournament. Although disappointed, for Cohen, this did not come as a surprise.
“There’s not a lot of Jewish people in the world to begin with. Then there’s not a lot of female soccer players that happen to be Jewish,” she said. “So the chances of finding them are really slim. A lot of people who used to play in Maccabi don’t play soccer like that anymore. So it’s really hard to find people who are willing to play in the tournament.”
Even in a Jewish town like Reisterstown, Kira said she is the only Jewish player on both of her club teams.
“A lot of the girls will say things like, ‘What’re you going to do for Easter?’ and things like that, so [not getting a team together for] Maccabi was a little upsetting,” she said. “I thought it would be an opportunity to fit in a little bit better, but it just didn’t work out.”
Cohen, however, isn’t discouraged by her singularity.
“Knowing that I’m a Jewish female player and that I actually have a chance is really, really cool,” she said.