In an effort to understand the response to the recent announcement that the Academy is moving to a 10-month season, thus removing its players from High School soccer programs, I’ve compiled this list of articles on the move.
On a related note, Patch has convened a group of coaches to discuss this topic today at 4pm. You can participate in this internet chat discussion here – Thursday 4 P.M. Live Soccer Chat: High School vs. Academy Soccer
Goal.com – Extended Development Academy season prompts concerns about its participants Note – look out for the auto start on the video and you can ignore it, it has nothing to do with the article
This shift continues the gradual transition from profit-seeking organizations squeezing every last cent out of youth soccer to professional setups designed to develop players over the long term (and, in some instances, make some money along the way). The presence of MLS academy sides within the Development Academy structure even provides a modicum of control and supervision over the process. In time, each MLS club will possess the capability to mold and shape players in accordance with first-team needs and philosophical guidelines.
Sheer numbers prohibit a raft of success stories. Seventy-eight clubs participate in the Development Academy. Each club (barring any exceptions) fields a U-16 side and a U-18 side. If each team (conservatively) names 18 players to each roster during a season, then 2,808 players will feature at some point during any given Academy season. Only a modest percentage of those players will warrant a Division I scholarship by the end of their Academy careers. Barely a handful will play professional soccer. A miniscule number will appear with a national team of any sort.
Here’s the latest report – By The Numbers: Development Academy Stars Bound For College – which identifies 380 players
Forbes.com – RIP, High School Soccer? Note – a headline designed to get attention, it points to the Post-Dispatch article among others.
However, for those coaching and participating in high school soccer, their being squeezed out by elite programs is a short-term threat to their existence. If the elite system devalues high school soccer, will high school soccer then be devalued in the eyes of others? High school soccer is likely going to have to forget about any aspirations to training future college and pro players. Instead, it will thrive only if it sells kids on the experience of representing your school. Having seen how excited my kids have been to represent their school in sports and activities, that’s not a hard sell.
St Louis Post-Dispatch – U.S. Soccer bans its elite players from high school teams
While area high school coaches Terry Michler of CBC and Chaminade’s Mike Gauvain can understand U.S. Soccer’s plan in theory, they do not agree with this approach.
“If they were going to target the top 60 or 80 or even 100 top kids in an age group and work to develop them, maybe that’s something I could understand,” Gauvain said. “But the scope of this is just too big. The Academy system has something like 72 teams nationwide; there’s just no way there are that many elite-level players out there for a system like this.”
Added Michler: “They’re going to try to sell this to players and their parents as the path to college or professional soccer, and that’s just not true. If you’re a top player, a truly elite player, you’re going to be found, no matter where you play.”
Both Gauvain and Michler cited the role athletics play in the overall high school experience.
The U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy league will soon be telling its players to not play high school soccer or any other high school sports. Most parents of these elite players will buy into the decision, much in the same way they believe it costs thousands of dollars to assure their child becomes a strong player and receives that $2,000 partial scholarship. Not surprisingly, the developmental academies will now be forced to charge more for training and travel.
Finally, ESPN asked the question of How To Improve US Soccer prior to the Academy announcement. As Ernie Stewart (Technical Director at AZ Alkmaar) noted
“I see logistical problems in the United States and [NCAA limitations on practice time in college soccer] make it difficult. It all goes back to repetitions, hours and hours and hours. Kids from 18 to 22 are only practicing a few hours a week — and these are some of the top players in the United States? That’s ridiculous. If you see what we in Holland put in for hours and what the United States puts in, it’s not even close.”
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I’ll have one more article looking more closely at the local impact. In the meantime, the discussion I’d really like to see expanded is this one – is your U11 squad training like this? Note that I didn’t ask what their record is…