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Academy's high school ban a step too far
by Paul Gardner, March 23rd, 2012 8:16PM

MOST READ
TAGS:  development academy, youth boys

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By Paul Gardner

The expert. Defined as someone who knows more and more about less and less until he reaches perfection and knows everything about nothing.

Not bad as definitions go. It is pretty funny -- which means it is in danger of being dismissed as simply a joke. That would be a mistake. This is one of those quips that contains the seeds of some awkward truths.

And yes, I am thinking about modern soccer coaches. Without question these guys are better trained and educated and informed than any group of coaches that has gone before. But it’s not that they know more about less. Their situation is that they know more about more. The aim seems to be to know everything about everything.

Coaching has been steadily expanding its reach ever since it began to take itself seriously some time around the 1960s, and then, a little later, turned itself into an industry. That applies to all forms of coaching -- but particularly to youth coaching.

I write as something of a turncoat on this matter. Way back when -- let’s say in the 1960s -- there was a pretty general feeling in this country that one of the things that soccer most needed was more and better coaching -- particularly in the area of youth development.

That was certainly the way that I then saw things. What seemed to make the situation so clearly unsatisfactory was the parlous state of high school soccer. I frequently attended such games in those days, and found the experience harrowing -- or rather it would have been had it not also been laughable.

Games played in quarters, rules that seemed to vary almost from game to game, clueless referees (usually two of them) officiating as though these were football games and, of course, far, far too many coaches who coached as though the sport were football.

The game barely looked like soccer. What chance had the kids to develop in that atmosphere? None it seemed. But what I do not recall is any idea that high school soccer should be abolished. What we envisioned was a world in which high school soccer flourished because it was put in the hands of coaches who understood the sport.

So here we are, 45 years on, and we’ve got everything we took to be lacking. We have specialist academies sprouting right, left and center, they’re staffed by a regiment of coaches with all sorts of clever badges -- these are the new experts -- and we have a pile of carefully prepared paperwork, a curriculum, a best-practices guide, etc., telling all those coaches what to do and how to do it (the guys who write those things must, presumably, be the super experts).

No one can doubt that U.S. Soccer and MLS are taking youth development seriously. The anarchy of past decades has been replaced by firm organization. Discipline is required for all this, and it is the expert coaches who will ensure that things run smoothly. According to the curriculum, shall we say.

Boy, have things changed. Where we used to lament the lack of coaching, the big fear now is of over-coaching. U.S. Youth Soccer’s document titled “U.S. Youth Soccer Player Development Model,” actually includes an admonitory section headed “Over-coaching.”

How odd. This is a 116-page booklet on coaching, it is put out by the U.S. Youth Soccer Coaching Education Department, in association with the U.S. Youth Soccer Coaching Committee, and it acknowledges “support from 55 U.S. Youth Soccer State Association Technical Directors and the U.S. Soccer Technical advisors.” Did someone mention over-coaching?

There is, obviously, a contradiction there -- but the coaches themselves will be the last to see it. No one over-coaches, you see. Have you ever met anyone who admits, or boasts, about being an over-coacher? Yet everyone worries about it.

I think they are right to worry -- but they need to take look at themselves. I said that youth development is now being taken seriously, to which most coaches will say “And about time, too” and regard it as automatically a good thing.

But are things being taken too seriously? The question is not a theoretical one, for U.S. Soccer has made sure it will be asked by deciding that its academy programs are so important that if a boy is really serious about the sport, he must forego high school soccer, and stick with his academy program year-round.

Forty-five years ago I’m sure I would have enthusiastically supported U.S. Soccer’s move. Now I don’t. Partly because high school soccer is a lot better than it used to be, but even more because I do not believe the academies are as good as they evidently think they are.

The experts seem to me to be claiming too much. It is impossible to read any of these imposing official publications without getting the feeling that the coaches now feel they know everything about the sport. And beyond the sport. Some of the advice being offered sounds more like a parenting guide than a coaching manual.

But the biggest problem I have with the new coaching is that, by taking itself so seriously , it is inevitably tending to assume an authoritarian air. “The coach knows best” is at least a plausible way of looking at things. “The coach knows everything” is not.

U.S. Youth Soccer’s Player Development Model tells you, on its title page, that it is a “player-centered curriculum.” That is one way of looking at it. But you could be forgiven for finding it equally, or more, “coach-centered.” And when those coaches are the new experts, when they are convinced of their own omniscience, the authoritarian tone soon makes itself heard. On Page 8, one short paragraph on Player Development uses the word “must” four times.

So of course -- with fatal certainty -- that attitude will lead on to diktats like the one stipulating that Academy players must not play high school soccer.

I do not believe such arrogance to be warranted. The seriousness that has overtaken youth development pays little attention to what is -- for better or for worse -- the natural habitat of boys when growing up: their high school life, their high school friends. A social life that a soccer academy -- despite the extraordinary “life skills and psychology” knowledge that coaches now claim to have -- can never be replaced by the narrowly focused requirements of an academy.

Nor will the arrogance be supported by results. If the ultimate aim is to produce top-level players capable of performing for the national team, then we can say immediately that a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money is going to be spent for minimal results. We know that because that is the way it is all over the world.

From the hordes of young boys who sign on with pro clubs in foreign countries, the number who become good enough to play in the premier divisions, never mind the national teams, is pitifully small. In England the stats show that 75 percent of the boys who sign on with a pro club at age 16 -- boys who will already have been selected as promising -- have quit the game by the age of 21. The chances of a boy making it all the way through the elaborate youth coaching systems and emerging as a national team star are around 1 percent.

Yes, yes -- I do appreciate that today’s youth coaches are committed people who are much better prepared than their predecessors 45 years ago. Whether they can -- in practice rather than in theory, on the field rather than on paper -- produce better players, well I think the jury is still out on that.

Which is why I find it decidedly arrogant of the leaders in a system that operates only in a very limited area of life -- and that has yet to prove itself -- to demand that boys should give up their participation in activities, namely high school activities, that are likely to carry life benefits that the seriously well-intentioned and ominously well-planned and charted and programmed and diagramed and check-listed and flow-charted academy programs can not.



30 comments
  1. Jogo Bonito
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 10:04 p.m.
    excellent points. I happen to be a coach for one of the academies and can tell you that many of my colleagues were not for this at all. I see the negetive effects of hs soccer when we get the kids back after the fall, but after a few sessions with other high level players any bad habits are gone. the social aspect of the hs season and the much needed "break" from academy ball is a good thing I feel. there's no edvidence from this long time coach that an extra 90 days with me and the academy coaches is going to make any significant difference in the development of these young players.

  1. tim francis
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 10:07 p.m.
    Thanks for supporting the wholesome and sane position, Paul. Isn't it also true that, by 15 or 16, a player's very rare potential for National level play is already set by genes, culture and training? Do coaches really think they can make that big of an ability difference starting at High School?

  1. tim francis
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 10:13 p.m.
    Along with what I and 'Jogo' said above, we Americans also need to acknowledge that most of our primo athletes that have even a chance at competing internationally, will be lured to the big money sports.

  1. Dick Burns
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 11:01 p.m.
    Some 40 years ago, I supported the boys of Colorado Springs in developing a high school program. Not because I thought it was the best route to improved soccer but because that it what they wanted. Recognition of their sport at their schools the same as their piers in other sports. And yes, I was one of those two refs. Remember, we did not have enough refs to go around and we were somewhat new to the sport as well. High school and youth soccer, and refereeing are far superior to what it was in the '70s but young soccer players typically still want to wear their school colors and compete for state championships. Is it really necessary to have them compete and train for 10 months of the year in relative obscurity with a very slim hope of advancing to the pros and national teams?

  1. Stephen Peck
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 11:15 p.m.
    I agree that the academy is creating a riff where none needs to be. Thy have not really thought this through with respect to the culture here in the US. High School is ingrained in our society and the activities that we all participated in provide the memories and stories we share with friends today. Take that away and what would we have? I have coached college soccer for over 15 years and it is nice to see a group of high level players competing from a recruiting standpoint. But I will always feel that recruiting those same players through HS has allowed me to discover other really good players that may not be in an academy. I hope this generation of academy players do not end up regretting what they give up for a 1% chance of signing a professional contract. If they are good players they will play in college with or without the academy.

  1. mark courtney
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 11:29 p.m.
    I currently have a U8 son, am newly obsessed and am soaking up all things soccer. A teammate has a U18 sister playing on our local ECNL team. The best girls in this area hands down and I am amazed that basically there is no one at the games ... except the parents. Then to also witness her playing for her HS team ... well you know the difference...and what a difference. Luckily, it is also a top rated team. I am going to offer a suggestion that I bet would help achieve the same goals as this 10 month idea ... and I bet many would agree that it might work .... and I bet,sadly, it will never happen,. Focus on the bottom of the pyramid base not on the top. Clubs should adopt schools around them ( rec players) and really help establish a solid footing. NOT just a free coaching clinic. Next, help create "free play" and increase the numbers at the younger/lower levels and keep mentoring them. So many fields are empty most of the time. How sad. Next get the kids to come watch local games somehow. Eventually there might be a shift in our attitude about soccer and one day the stands might be filled at the Club games as well. In the end, if this all actually happened there would be so many more kids playing soccer, and more would pay to play, going to the clubs that probably influenced them and the average cost could actually go down ... again allowing more to play. INCREASE THE NUMBERS at the bottom end and the talent will increase at the top later!!! But there will have to be club volunteers - and this is why this will never happen

  1. Stephen Peck
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 11:49 p.m.
    Also I wonder what the academy's stance will be on flunking classes and even dropping out of high school. Will/do they support the academic structure that exists in high school athletics since they are forcing 14 to 18 year olds to choose? The reality is that High Schools have sports for community pride, student overall growth and positive recognition. The academy may provide recognition but is that enough?

  1. Dirk Hilyard
    commented on: March 24, 2012 at midnight
    I agree with Stephen Peck in that the academy coaches have become what I like to term as "self important." Academies are still driven by money whereas high school participation costs are minimal. Why have we become so elitist in assuming that high school soccer is "rec" level? I'm a licensed coach with club, college and high school coaching experience and believe that the players should play as much soccer as they can. The United States' high school culture is a strong one and should never be compromised. After all, is every academy soccer player turning professional? What are the academy's ultimate goal? College soccer also has many divisions, i.e. NCAA D1, D2, D3, Junior College, NAIA. As a high school coach who is also involved in club soccer, aren't we all working towards the same goal? Don't limit the soccer a teen can play otherwise it will backfire on you!

  1. Oz LatinAmerican
    commented on: March 24, 2012 at 12:02 a.m.
    For a HS age competitive team (not the DA) it cost approximately $12,000 per team to play 8 or 9 games in one season, 2 months! Not including travel,tournaments, and food plus hotel! HS soccer here in USA, is the closest thing that resembles the soccer clubs around the world because it represents a entire community, the neighborhoods where we live,work,and play. Although is a minuscule comparison, that's how people identify themselves with a HS team and support their community. HS soccer provides this, and still at a minimum cost! to the players and their families.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: March 24, 2012 at 9:51 a.m.
    Paul has made a strong argument.I too have been around soccer for many years and felt the same way about HS soccer, but always wanted it to improve,not be ignored.All the points made above are also right on. In the USA,school sports are woven into the fabric of our culture.It is blatantly unfair to ask our teenage sons and daughters to choose between HS and club ball. Besides, I also agree with Paul's statement"high school soccer is a lot better than it used to be, but even more because I do not believe the academies are as good as they evidently think they are."

  1. Adrian Gonzalez
    commented on: March 24, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.
    Excellent article and fantastic responses ! My 14 year-old son plays for a Premier level Club team, made the U-14 Pre-Academy MLS team in our area, along with 5 of his Club team teammates. These boys will all play high school soccer for reasons mentioned above. Our participation in the Academy program allows the boys to be trained by a former MLS star and the training is very good. I take this for what it is worth and am happy for my son to receive this level of training. I make it clear to my son that education is still first, soccer is big in our family and he must continue to enjoy it as long as he is playing. My dream is for him to have an opportunity to attend college with some financial assistance that he may receive because of soccer. My goal is for him to be the best he can and receive higher education regardless how it is paid for. I still plan to pay for it, so assistance would be a bonus. Thank you to people like Mr Burns for being one of those two referees, without you there may not have been a game that day. Perspective is a key word in my life that will never change.

  1. Tim Storch
    commented on: March 24, 2012 at 10:46 a.m.
    I've also been involved in the evolution of the sport for over 30 years at the collegiate, club, ODP ,and HS levels. Some of my former players were fortunate enough to move on to Regional and National teams, while also enjoying opportunities to compete for state HS championships. What this really is though is a grab by those who consider themselves "elite" coaches I refer to as "soccer whores". In order to make more money off more players, they must demonize the enemy - HS soccer, because it occupies 2 months of their potential earning calendar. With no shame, they will whisper into the ear of marginal club players about their potential and they and their parents will be hooked - as long as the checks keep coming.

  1. Kraig Richard
    commented on: March 24, 2012 at 11:34 a.m.
    If Academy kids don't play school ball then there are quite a few more slots open for role model development. Because of school consolidationsn there are so many less high schools for athletes to play in. The year three of our local towns merged schools nearly 70% of returning players lost their slot that year. Wham. BMOC to NADA just like that. All those kids suddenly had the time to pass around something else besides a ball or a puck. Academy soccer is for kids who have a dream, high school soccer is for those with a goal. Lets make more opportunities for our youth. The corrections facilities really can not handle much more of our population. If big schools had to field more teams it might help.

  1. peter mcginn
    commented on: March 24, 2012 at 12:53 p.m.
    My kid is a u14 at an academy club. He is a freshman and is on the "preacademy" which I really don't understand as it entails much ado about nothing but I digress. Yes less than 1% go pro but I think less than 2% actually think they are going pro. For the kids who are going to play on the national team or pros they kind of know who they are by the time they are 12 or so. I am certain there are exceptions. So the development academy is so that those dudes have someone to play with adn that's about it. I do not think that is a bad thing. My kid if he makes the academy will be one of those kid that they really good kids gets to play with and my kid is having the time of his life playing high level soccer. They say only about 1% of high school soccer pool play in the academy anyway so its kind of much ado about not much in my opinion. Now, I have seen local high school soccer in California and I don't know what high school soccer some of you guys are watching but my kids u10 premier club soccer is better than alot of high school JV teams I have seen. At our high school we have about 5 kids who play for 2 different academies so if all those kids played soccer the school would be very good but those kids are all quite happy not playing high school soccer. We know one kid who plays on my son's club team and he also plays on a Nationally ranked high school. Top 20 or so I believe. That is great but the reality is that these teams only have 3-4 competitive games a season the rest are 7-0 massacres and then they go into post season an play other league champs and it is all good. The only way high school soccer can be any good for serious soccer players is if there is a system of relegation and year to year monitoring of leagues to make certain - regardless of geography that like level teams play each other and not rec teams donning school colors. I am not being glib or disrespectful of the "rec teams". Those kids are having a great time and getting excercise and learning all the stuff the others are and they are not well served by playing superior competiton and losing 10-2. I have seen local teams with 4 academy players clean up in local competitions and they are having fun - what is not fun about winning 7-1 but when you ask the kids they'll tell you ' its a joke'. That is how I see it.

  1. John Soares
    commented on: March 24, 2012 at 2:13 p.m.
    Peter, I think you are missing or ignoring the point. There is a lot more to the High School "experience" than simply playing the game, any game. The issue is forcing kids to play only one or the other. There is little if any "justifiable" reason to assume a kid that plays yearound for the a premier team will somehow loose his skills playing 10 games with his friends representing his school.

  1. Chad Jackson
    commented on: March 24, 2012 at 3:32 p.m.
    Paul I have a lot of respect for you and have seen the evolution of soccer in this country also. Back in the 80's I had to make a decision to play club soccer or HS soccer because Texas UIL (HS rules) would not let me play both. I chose to play club soccer instead of HS soccer. My friends thought I was crazy but I was the only kid who got a soccer scholarship in my area of town and had a very successful college soccer career. Fast forward 23 years. My son is a sophomore in HS and played HS soccer and club soccer his freshman year. It was brutal on his body to try to play both and the soccer was atrocious at HS. Yes, he loved playing with his friends but his dream is to get a soccer scholarship and go pro. He knows it takes sacrifice and the only way he is going to get better is play for 10 months in the Academy league. Yes, he will miss playing with his friends and for his school but he has his goals. It was actually great the USSF made the decision for him because he was going have to decide if he was playing HS at all and being one of the best players in his HS that would have brought on tremendous pressure. Paul, HS soccer is not much better than it was many years ago and it does not help our elite players to play it. You have big thugs that still want to take out the best player and you develop bad habits trying to take on guys that aren't even in the same league as well as have to adjust to a different speed when HS soccer is over. We are going in the right direction in this country and the Developmental Academy is where we are developing and finding our best players for the National team as well as college. This is a tough transition year for this but in a few years nobody will be talking about this. The best players will be playing in the Academy and the other players will be playing in high school for a great experience. In the long run, it is best for player development in banning HS soccer for the USSF player with the new 10 month league.

  1. Dirk Hilyard
    commented on: March 24, 2012 at 8:07 p.m.
    Chad, your comments seem like they come from the heart but I think they're a bit misguided. I think the level of high school soccer varies from area to area, and state to state. I n Florida, for example, we are fortunate enough to have soccer in the winter months of November, December and January. Our state championship is in February. You are simply demonstrating the elitist attitude that only a handful of players experience. But the USSF "forcing" players to choose is what we are against. Sure, the top player should get that opportunity but we're still talking about the United States and our freedom to choose. I would probably guess that law suits may follow. Maybe the soccer at HIS high school was "atrocious" and I could understand his decision but we're looking at the overall picture. Besides, how many success stories have we heard of famous professional players who grew up simply playing in a back lot or on dirt WITHOUT so called "academies."

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: March 25, 2012 at 11:50 a.m.
    Paul, is that really you? For many decades, you have been rediculing colleges for the inferior soccer they play. You wanted HS grads to go directly to pro soccer instead of wasting 4 years in college. You didn't care about the social and educational advantages of the college system. Suddenly, you became the defender of HS soccer which is more inferior than college soccer? The number of HS students that join the academy system is less than 1% of total HS soccer players. HS soccer will never be abolished. Leave it to the students themselves to decide. They either want to be a big fish in a small pond (HS scocer) or go to a better thing that will help them grow and achieve their dreams.

  1. John Yunker
    commented on: March 25, 2012 at 12:27 p.m.
    Gus - "They either want to be a big fish in a small pond (HS scocer) or go to a better thing that will help them grow and achieve their dreams." is insulting to the majority of soccer players. This drive to develop a few national team players has collateral damage. As a club coach that had several players return from elite programs because they wanted soccer to be fun, and as a parent of a high school captain playing division III soccer, I can assure you most of them have no desire to be a big fish in a small pond. They love soccer and play it for the love of the game, not some idea of heroic glory. And they play some amazing soccer - most division III games are broadcast live on the web now. These kids will be the parents that will give their kids the nuanced skills and "feel" for the game that will give our elite coaches finally the material to take US soccer to the next level.

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: March 25, 2012 at 1:17 p.m.
    John, my comment was not directed toward the majority of soccer players. I understand that 99% of HS players are doing it for fun. This is OK and it's proof that HS soccer will continue to grow. But I am talking about the top 1% of them who are very superior, sometimes by a large margin, than most of the others. Those will benefit more of a professional atmosphere; not only to grow their own game and achieve their dream, but also to help the national team on the long run. No insult was intended and I apologized if any one felt this way.

  1. John Yunker
    commented on: March 25, 2012 at 2:01 p.m.
    Thanks Gus, but to make my point clear, the players I coached were not playing "for fun". They were very much serious students of the game who put extreme effort into the game and their skills practicing hours per day on their own. But they also wanted to have a life outside of soccer. And that is my biggest problem with some of the elite programs. They insist that the player have no life outside of soccer - because that is what they feel is necessary to succeed at that level. I guess that is the point these coaches are making. My point is that a large percentage of HS and D-III players are just as knowledgeable about the game and just as serious on game day - not as fast, not as dextrous, and (as I guess the point of the elite coaches is), not willing to sacrifice everything else to play at the highest level.

  1. Ron Newman
    commented on: March 25, 2012 at 2:48 p.m.
    I have retired now but I worry about the latest people who have been left in Charge.The Academy's and Clubs are great but they are for development and better than playing in the street.The HS are more fun and draw on the class and school mates as their fan club.Plus the media are more interested. The Academy's can learn a lot in the promotion of the game thru HS.

  1. Oz LatinAmerican
    commented on: March 25, 2012 at 4:17 p.m.
    You got to be kidding! most of the great players in the world came from just that playing in the street! with their friends 4v4's 5v5's, then with a mix between older players, then they got picked by their local clubs,and so on! I'm sorry for the USA we all want to see soccer here as it is in the world, but is not happening because is not part of the culture! Academies,clubs or HS, or coaches don't create players like Messi,Ronaldo,Ronaldinho,Zinadine,or Tevez. Learn about all the top players in the world and you will find out this is the truth. Until you create the environment here is not happening! So please understand this, the more the kids play soccer any program the better it is and HS soccer is just part of it. And please don't tell me that Messi was created in La Masia, he had the skills already of a soccer player, playing in his neighborhood in Argentina before he went to Spain at age 13!

  1. John Klawitter
    commented on: March 26, 2012 at 7:01 a.m.
    Paul, I can only hope that your editorial is read by the powers that be, although, like you, I suspect their arrogance will prevent that from ever happening. My daughter's club coach did a great job of teaching my daughter tactical soccer. It was one of her earlier, less accredited coaches, who taught her skill. But life's lessons? No way. If he taught her anything about real life, I feel fortunate I can trust that she saw through it and recognized it as an example of how not to be. Her High School Coach? Now there's someone who is full of life lessons and, at the same time, is a damned good soccer coach as well. She is young (the fact that she is a she is already a great improvement on helping girls relate to life), she is coaching at her alma mater, and she has a great chance of coaching her first High School team to a State Championship. The excitement that is building at school for this team that is, effectively, a conglomerate of club teams with some very strong players, is something that I would never want my daughter to be denied. Again, thank you for, once again, seeing things as they really are, in spite of the retoric of industry (and, believe me, at this time, an industrial complex it has become.

  1. tim francis
    commented on: March 26, 2012 at 8:27 a.m.
    Oz, You're right, but the US doesn't have the luxury of that soccer culture. Maybe daily, year-round after school programs like SCORE, which, for practically no family cost(they use local businaess sponsorships), combine school performance requirement with after school, informal, minimally coached play, and local to national competition.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: March 26, 2012 at 11:11 a.m.
    The point is,the players should not have to choose.I think the Academy pro's are way off base here.Just as I think HS coaches are when they won't allow players to play club during the HS season.Players should play as much as they want and where ever the are able to, period!

  1. Alan Gay
    commented on: March 26, 2012 at 11:14 a.m.
    Schools are communities. The most important lesson boys and girls learn is what it means to be part of a community, including the joy that comes from making a meaningful contribution to that community. The Academy message is that boys should only be "takers", receiving the benefits of the (often rich)cultural heritage established by the generations that have preceded them, while reserving their best talents to serve only themselves.

  1. Paul Lorinczi
    commented on: March 26, 2012 at 12:31 p.m.
    There are several issues here. 1. What percentage of kids get a pro contract? 2. What percentage of kids actually get college scholarships to play soccer? 3. If they are paying to participate in the DA, it is not a DA. It's a ripoff. 4. High School rules are too limiting for player development. the current system excludes a lot of inner-city kids because that can't pay club fees to play competitive ball all year round. If clubs want to participate in the DA, it should be for U16 only. Above U16, it should be MLS clubs only. If you don't get invited to an MLS Academy, stay in HIgh School and force the college coaches to scout you there.

  1. Lee Katterman
    commented on: April 26, 2012 at 8:23 a.m.
    I don't have a problem with academies, but there should only be ONE TEAM per state. Furthermore, that team will have all HS age groups and probably a limit of about 30 players. The very best in the state can forego HS soccer, but the rest should be allowed to live their own lives, not satisfy the wishes of US Soccer or MLS.

  1. K Thayer
    commented on: June 15, 2012 at 1:34 p.m.
    Great article! I have been upset over this news for months as my son plays for both an academy team and a high school team. I just wanted to add that I believe US Soccer is missing another positive aspect to playing high school soccer. My son is kind of a shy kid but when he was a starting sophomore at his Div. I high school this past fall, his self esteem went through the roof and he became a much better soccer play over-all. When you walk through your high school hallways and kids that you don't even know come up to you and say things like, "Hey, aren't you that really good soccer player?", it builds confidence plain and simple. Your high school peers do not see your academy games typically but when you can take the skills you're learning outside of high school and bring those skills to your high school games, you are a local star. Yes, 1% of the players across the United States will maybe go on and become national stars but don't take that feeling from the remaining 99% of kids across the nation.


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Can this be Brazil? The hosts stagger through to the quarterfinals     
So Brazil is through to the quarterfinals. Of course that’s good news, not only for Brazilians, ...
Teenage wonder kids and ruling dynasties: They don't come around too often     
Ever since the 17-year-old Pele was the star of the 1958 World Cup we've been waiting ...
Goals early and often light up World Cup    
Those (myself among them) who feared that caution, with its depressant effect on goalscoring, would rule ...
Brazil 3 Croatia 1. No Beautiful Game from this Brazil team     
Not, by any means, an uneventful game. Not short of action, suspense, tension. So plenty to ...
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