When he was still young, Sheanon Williams had a coach who would often tell him, “You never know who is watching you.”
Throughout his career, Williams has always kept that sentiment in the back of his mind, knowing full well that good performances can lead to bigger stages.
The Philadelphia Union defender hopes the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will be one of those stages.
Earlier this week, Williams returned from the US Under-23 national team’s 10-day training camp in Germany – a camp that was designed to start identifying top players leading into Olympic qualifying in March. Two of Williams’ Union teammates, Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney, were also called up.
“It’s definitely a big honor,” said Williams, who emerged as arguably one of the league’s top right backs in his first MLS season in 2011. “Everyone wants to play in the Olympics. It’s a huge event and it’s something you’re doing in the country. I think that will definitely be a cool experience.”
While Okugo and McInerney both have fairly recent national team experience, Okugo played in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in April and McInerney was called into a U-20 camp last December, Williams has been out of the international game for two years.
But like his two teammates, Williams graduated from the U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla., and also has experience with the U-20s, last playing internationally at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt.
“You just kind of wait for events to come up,” Williams said. “U-20 has their World Cup and for U-23, it’s the Olympics. It’s about waiting and hoping you’re one of the players they take a look at for the Olympics.”
Williams and his two teammates didn’t have to wait long after their MLS season ended to find out they were going to the U-23 camp, getting the call a day after the Union were eliminated from the playoffs on Nov. 3.
Williams said he felt “mixed emotions” at the time because, naturally, he had hoped the Union would advance further in the postseason. But there were no mixed emotions about going to Germany with two of his teammates, both of whom he said played well during the 10-day camp which included four exhibition games.
“Any time you go with teammates it adds a comfort level,” Williams said. “I hope we all continue to do well so we keep getting called into these camps.”
If the 21-year-old Williams continues to progress at the rate he’s going, he certainly has a good chance to keep getting called into camps, both at the U-23 level and beyond. In fact, many Philly fans seem to think the right back has the best chance of being the next Union player to make an impact with the senior national team.
“I’ve heard it,” Williams said. “And I’ve definitely talked to people who have said they hope I get called up to the full team. If that day ever comes, it will be extremely exciting. But right now, I’m focused on what’s ahead of me with the 23s. Hopefully that can lead to something further.
“You’ve just got to keep pushing yourself because you never know who’s watching what you’re doing.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.