Youth soccer takes a new direction

As soccer begins to grow in popularity, high school affiliated teams are losing players to the more competitive club system. Instead of playing two seasons, one with each team, players are having to choose whether to play for an academy or for their respected high schools.

The United States Developmental Academy is a soccer program that is governed by the United States soccer federation. Its job is to pool the nations best players into one national league where the federation can control rules to keep the level of the games high and to keep players at a peak performance.

This league also creates a more professional environment for the players. The conferences are all national conferences so most games are played outside the state which forces tough schedules with frequent traveling that resemble profession and collegiate soccer. The training schedules are stricter and at a higher level which makes for a more competitive roster, which improves skill more than a high school environment. The college I will be playing for in the fall saw me play at an academy showcase, in fact most D1 schools recruit through the academy system.

High school soccer also provides a distinct experience unmatched by the academy. There is something special about representing a school and community playing while playing soccer. It is a local schedule so more people are involved close in the community that drives a unique spirit while on the pitch. Some of my best memories from high school come from playing soccer for Heritage. High school soccer gave me a special experience that formed me into the man I am. Even though the overall level is lower, I learned more life skills during my two seasons for high school than I have in the academy. High school soccer is about more than the game, victories mean more than points, and there are different motivations. There’s no feeling that will match seeing the stands packed with students to support the team, it is something that the academy can simply not match.

 

They both serve different purposes; while the academy produces more talent and better soccer players, high school provides an environment that reminds players of passion and the purpose of the beautiful game. Recently, the academy went to a 10 month season, restricting players from playing high school in the fall. Even though the academy has the greater ability to make a player better, this system is flawed.

The best two years of my life were my freshman and sophomore year where I could play high school in the fall and academy in the spring. I was able to fully grow as a person and not only as a player through the sport. It’s hard for a player with D1 or professional dreams to pass up the opportunity of academy for one season of high school, there is no reason that the same kid with the same dreams can not play both and still achieve them.

The Colorado Rush Academy talks before a game. The Academy has taken players away from the traditional High School soccer programs because of their extensive schedule.

The Colorado Rush Academy talks before a game. The Academy has taken players away from the traditional High School soccer programs because of their extensive schedule.

Sports are played for a purpose, yes sometimes that purpose is for a living, but the main purpose is to mature kids through community and hard work. Having a system that provides both levels will produce better adults, while not harming their soccer abilities.

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