U-17 star Koroma seeks normal life

[SPOTLIGHT] After three semesters at the U.S. under-17 residency program, 15-year-old Alfred Koroma has returned to his adopted home in Southlake, Texas, and is starring for Carroll High School.

"I wanted to have a normal life," Koroma told the Dallas Morning News. "I wanted to be a normal kid."

Nothing has been normal about Koroma's childhood. He was born in Sierra Leone, fled with his mother to Gambia and then moved to Fort Worth, Texas, in 2003.

He then moved from family to family among teammates on his Texas Longhorns team and was eventually brought in by the Shams family, who became his legal guardians.

He was spotted playing in the Dallas Cup and moved to Bradenton, Fla., where he was the youngest player in the residency program.

But he grew unhappy away from home and returned to the Dallas area over Christmas, returning to the Shams family.

Carroll, ranked ninth in Texas, knocked off Coppell, 2-1, Friday in the District 6-5A opener.

Koroma is still young enough to represent the USA at the 2011 Under-17 World Cup.


Are youth stars better off playing in a full-time soccer program away from home like the U.S. U-17 residency program? Or should they stay at home? Should youth players get the opportunity to experience high school soccer? Let us know what you think.

6 comments about "U-17 star Koroma seeks normal life".
  1. alfredo gaudry, February 11, 2010 at 9:57 a.m.

    I believe that each young man, whether he is 14 or 16, has to make a decision to attend the residency camp. Factors like family, school and just being a kid will influence this decision. While I applaud the program and have seen how far young players go, I am all for young men growing up in a "normal" environment. Being a alum of UVA and having played for Bruce Arena, I know just how competitive I am and how much I want to US to continue to grow into a soccer power. However, we have to let kids be kids and they will continue develop.

    Alfredo Gaudry
    HS teacher and soccer coach

  2. hakim kounavong, February 11, 2010 at 10:28 a.m.

    "normal life" and high level of soccer can't head to the same direction. The residency camp teaches the boys of the high demand of soccer, if you can't take it. That means you can not take pressure. at the end you can not succeed or reach your goal. Going back to familiar environment, many times it's a bad decision. I have seen many talented players wasted because of stupid decisions when they around friends. I guess it's like a choice between an university or a community college. The best students always pick an university over a community college.

  3. Jason T, February 11, 2010 at 10:32 a.m.

    I think one of the truly stupid things we could import from Europe is its youth development philosophy. Trying to identify/develop pro prospects under the age of 15 -- in any boys sport -- is just dumb. You cannot know where their bodies and brains are going to take them ... or how long that process will take. The NBA, NFL, MLB and even the neanderthals at the NHL have long understood this.

    Does anyone think this early ID system has helped Freddy Adu? Like LeBron, Gretzky and Tiger, players like Rooney and C.Ronaldo -- stars from an early age -- are extraordinarily rare.

    But the Euro soccer establishment is happy to recruit 12 year-olds because they could care less about the welfare of the kid. There will always be another vulnerable, under-informed victim from some struggling 3rd world program that they can exploit and dump.

    And more stupidly, by placing too much emphasis on the entry stage of the development pipeline, they probably end up losing a lot of players who would mature into really, really strong performers.

  4. Brian Herbert, February 11, 2010 at 11 a.m.

    Choice is good. Choice reduces corruption and power games because there is more competition. So lets not get a mentality that if you didn't come through Bradenton, you are not one of the U.S. elite players. I'd like to see more numbers, maybe professional players over the last ten years - which came out of Bradenton, which did not, what % of residency players go on to be regular starters for a top level team? I'm sure there are more stats that could be generated, but that would lead to a more intelligent discussion on this.

  5. Ernie Bruval, February 12, 2010 at 7:56 p.m.

    As the parent of a boy who just turned down residency to continue to play for his Academy I agree with Lonny Unger. As a 15 year old freshman in a very good academic high school he simply made the decision that he was not willing at this time to sacrifce academics to become a full time soccer player, especially where the U-17 world cup is two years away and they are constantly being scouted by national scouts at the academy level. If the academy systen truly works, and many academies become affiliated with MLS teams, the residency program will become obsolete in a couple of years. The bottom line for most of these players is that they would be better off with great grades and the opportunity to go to a top flight college, then a couple of semesters at residency. My son made this decision himself and I couldn't argue with it.

  6. alfredo gaudry, February 13, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.

    This is a response to Hakim. While I can agree to a point about decisions about friends and choices, you also have to look at the people around a young man's life. Parents, club coach/hs coach, mentors (older players who are making it). I know of so many players at UVA who did not have to make a choice of leaving home and turned into pretty college and pro players. There are good points to both sides but I think we just have too many choices for sports in the USA and hopefully the better athlete/soccer player will slowly develop at a quicker pace to be able to compete with the Spains, Brazils, Argentinas and Italys. We are still developing as a soccer power. It is called patience and it is one of the hardest things to deal with.


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