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#463903 - 03/04/12 07:47 AM High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way
Larry Miller Online   happy
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This article By SAM BORDEN appeared in the March 3rd New York Times.

Professional sports leagues in the United States have long relied on high schools to help cultivate the country’s best athletes. Rosters in Major League Baseball, the N.F.L. and the N.B.A. are filled with former scholastic stars, many of whom hold tightly to their quintessentially American memories of homecoming, letterman jackets and games played under the Friday night lights.

But for the organization charged with producing soccer players who can compete with the world’s best, that system has been deemed inadequate. The United States Soccer Federation announced a new policy recently that will uncouple high school soccer and the training of top youth players, a move that is unique among major team sports in this country and, some believe, is indicative of a trend in the way the United States develops elite athletes.

The shift by the federation applies to its top boys teams around the country, requiring players on those teams — known as Development Academy teams — to participate in a nearly year-round season and, by extension, forcing them and their soccer moms and dads to decide whether they should play for their club or play for their school.

The move has stirred a fierce debate among players, coaches and parents from California to Connecticut. In community forums, during town-hall-style meetings and on Internet message boards, those in favor have lauded the move as a requisite (and obvious) step to raising the quality of soccer in the United States, while critics have labeled it misguided, overzealous and an unnecessary denial of a longstanding American experience for children.

The federation’s decision is believed to be the first instance of a major team sport’s national organization keeping some of its members from playing scholastically. For players like Steven Enna, a sophomore and star forward at St. James Academy in Lenexa, Kan., who also plays for his local academy team, Sporting Kansas City, the shift has created an unsettling situation made stickier because his father is also his high school coach.

“It’s awkward,” Enna said. “You look at LeBron James — he played for his high school and went pro. Why do we have to give it up?”

The short answer, according to the national federation, is that soccer is different. If the United States hopes to compete with traditional soccer powers like Spain, Brazil and the Netherlands, the organization said, it must close the gap with those countries when it comes to identifying and training the best players.

The introduction of the Development Academy program — which began in 2007, features enhanced coaching and competition (but with a focus on out-of-competition training), and now consists of 78 clubs nationwide — was a step in that process, according to the academy’s director of scouting, Tony Lepore. But even five years ago, Lepore said, top soccer officials were doing research that consistently led them to believe this latest model, featuring a 10-month season and player exclusivity, was the only choice.

High school soccer has different rules from the international game — unlimited substitutions, most notably — as well as different priorities and tactics from an Academy program, Lepore said. Losing the players for several months each year was costly.

Lepore added that despite the uproar, this is in many ways a baby step toward the systems in place around the world. After all, even with the changes, Lepore said, the average Development Academy team will practice 200 to 260 hours a season.

“They’re probably closer to 600 hours a year in Spain or Holland,” he said. “We’re not surprised by the reaction, and we get it: high school sports are a big part of the culture. But when it comes to elite soccer players and their development, this change is optimal.”

For advocates of the previous system, however — in which the Development Academy’s schedule typically broke for the scholastic season and players were free to join their school squads — the sacrifices required by this shift are too great. Dan Woog, the boys soccer coach at Staples High School in Westport, Conn., recalled the night his team won a league championship several years ago and a group of players showed up at a diner afterward with their championship medals around their necks.

Suddenly, the other customers in the diner — a majority of them Westport residents — stood up and spontaneously gave the players a standing ovation. The players beamed.

“They’re going to remember that the rest of their lives,” Woog said. “They felt like kings. That’s not going to happen in the academy.”

Woog added: “We should be in the business of letting kids be kids. Not forcing them into thinking they’re going to be playing for Arsenal or Manchester United two years from now.”

Other high school coaches share Woog’s sentiment, and in high school soccer hotbeds like St. Louis, the shift, which will be instituted in the fall, has been scrutinized. Terry Michler, who has won more than 800 games as the coach at Christian Brothers College High School, said he was skeptical that the move would have the desired effect. He also said that keeping a larger number of children from playing with their schools as a service to the significantly smaller number who may ultimately turn professional or play for the national team was unreasonable.

“There’s about 3,000 kids on these teams across the country, but there’s not 3,000 future professionals out there,” Michler said. “There’s not 300 of them. So some of these kids and their parents are going to be misled.”

Michler added that playing for a high school team offered athletes social and academic advantages that do not exist with a club team, though some academy backers disputed that. Chris Hayden, the vice president for youth soccer with Dallas of Major League Soccer, which is one of a few clubs that voluntarily went to a 10-month season even before this latest shift, said his club was committed to all aspects of its players, including academics and their future college prospects.

For Alex Frankenfeld, who passed up varsity soccer at St. Mark’s School of Texas several years ago to play with Dallas, it is that dedication that has contributed to his having no regrets.

“I have goals and aspirations that I want to achieve,” he said, though he added that after making his decision, he rarely went to the St. Mark’s games even though he had friends still playing.

“I’d see parents and teachers and students,” Frankenfeld said of sitting in the stands. “And they’d keep saying to me, ‘Alex, why aren’t you out there?’ ”

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#463910 - 03/04/12 09:17 AM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Larry Miller]
Anonymous
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“There’s about 3,000 kids on these teams across the country, but there’s not 3,000 future professionals out there,” Michler said. “There’s not 300 of them. So some of these kids and their parents are going to be misled.”

that's it in a nutshell.

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#463928 - 03/04/12 12:11 PM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Larry Miller]
Anonymous
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Lepore added that despite the uproar, this is in many ways a baby step toward the systems in place around the world. After all, even with the changes, Lepore said, the average Development Academy team will practice 200 to 260 hours a season.

“They’re probably closer to 600 hours a year in Spain or Holland,” he said. “We’re not surprised by the reaction, and we get it: high school sports are a big part of the culture. But when it comes to elite soccer players and their development, this change is optimal.”



We have more than one major sport in the USA. The "Athlete pie" gets divided more ways here and makes it hard to compare with other nations. I doubt they even know what Lacrosse (another college schollarship sport!!) is in Spain or Holland!

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#463931 - 03/04/12 01:02 PM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
Anonymous
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This is a complete joke. Problem is we have 4-6 teams in NY Metro AREA and every Tom Dick and Harry thinks that because their kid is part of the academy they are legit.

US SOCCER SUCKS! ALWAYS WILL WITH THIS BONEHEADS LEADING THE CHARGE

Canot wait for the fall when these academy kids have to go home after school because they are not allowed in ANY AFTER SCHOOL ACTIVITY.

What happens with no one home between 3 pm and THE ILLUSTRIOUS ACADEMY TIME

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#463934 - 03/04/12 01:18 PM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
Anonymous
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High school soccer: rec league
Club ball: High levlel

Simple enough. It should be up to the individual kid and thats it.

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#463939 - 03/04/12 01:40 PM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
Anonymous
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The other factor they are not looking at is in other countries just about every young boy wants to grow up and play professional soccer player. In this country kids play multiple sports and than decide which is there favorite and than focus on one or two..and who they hang out with and what they play often go hand in hand. That quality athlete might not hang with soccer because he won't want to make that all or nothing decision. Therefor weakening the pool of talent. Steve Nash was a very good soccer player so was ocho cinco. I am sure if you talked to a lot of mls Americans they played other sports as well a ten month season destroys that. And that is a shame

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#463976 - 03/04/12 06:47 PM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
Anonymous
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The funny thing is that the academy uses the attraction of college scholarship to entice the players to stay to collect payment but in reality only the top 11 players even get a sniff of the pitch in any situation to be seen by these coaches. According to DA school involvement no good, but your future schooling is good for our sales pitch. They also tell you that they understand the importance of your education yet when you miss a precious practice due to something involving your education, your told this could effect your playing time and this needs to be your first committment above all. Great article by the ny times also.

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#463992 - 03/04/12 07:18 PM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
Anonymous
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Before my kids got into high school I thought the same thing, that HS soccer cannot compare to the level that Premier soccer could offer. Then we had our first playoff run and it was just a great experience sharing that with the kids you spend all day with at school. The buzz around school, the 15 minutes of fame, the vast majority of these kids wouldn't want to give that up for the world.

I have seen teams in our division littered with 10 players who play on Premier level teams routinely not make the playoffs. It's easy for these kids to look good on their Premier teams when they are surrounded by very good players. Great players make others around them better and I actually believe from my own kids experiences that they will remember these times, the newspaper articles, the rest of there lives.

Someone said it perfectly there are a whole lot of kids playing on money making development programs and only a small fraction make it. Another thing, picking a school, unless it's the only way you can afford it, by where you can possibly play soccer is silly. Pick the school tha best suits what you want to do and if possible play soccer.

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#464090 - 03/05/12 03:52 AM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
Anonymous
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Wow in a nutshell. The US soccer is a joke. We have Nepotism at the highest level(coach of the National team son plays on it) How do you take that job if your son is that good. We are a joke.

Until these fake BS academies start becoming real academies.(free schooling and playing 3 to 4 hours a day) play HS ball. If you are a decent top 500 player you are going to get a 50% scholarship regardless.

If you are really good at 14,15 or 16 go over seas and get a try out from one of 100 REAL academies. Where they pay for you and you actually learn the game. It's easy to do.

This country will never love soccer and it can never or will ever be able to compare to the foreign nations. NEVER

I guarantee you I could go out and find 18 players who would be better then our National team. But you know why they didn't make it. Because the state coach they had is not involve as an asst or some other BS job for the regional or National teams. California and Maryland are known for this. It's a joke and these BS fake academies only want your money.

I hope that the 2700 kids who play on academies say this is BS. I am a good player and will get a college scholarship of some kind. Then the academies will change this BS rule and understand that a kids HS experience is one they will never get to have again. As for the other top 300. Go try out over seas and see if you got what it takes and make it then that's awesome.

Also if you make it when you are around 30 and on a downward slope you will get a chance to play in the MLS any way because that's all it's made up of. 60% foreign players( who can't play for quality teams), over the hill guys and some decent div 1 college players. This will never ever change unless we change the people who run our regional and National programs or get real school academies like an AJAX. But to have a REAL academy you need to hire REAL qualified people not these clowns running our crap National programs.

So parents make the decision for your kid and unless they are in that top 300. Not that you think so but if they really are then take them over seas.

US will always be a football, baseball and basketball in this country. It is what it is. My kids soccer trainer makes more a year then an MLS player. It's a joke unless you are Beckham or Henry who look at us like we are total morons for paying them big bucks just before they retire.

Anyway fellas play HS ball and f..k these BS academies who are ALL about making money. If your son is that good every parent should ask the director of coaching that you want to be on a scholarship. You will know real quick if they think your kid is that good or you are just a pay check to the club and trainer. If they say sorry we don't do that then run to a club that will or have your son have a blast with his friends in a community where he can be a hero and someone kids look up to. That's what it's about.

Good Luck and ask for what your kid deserves. Don't be afraid!!

"The Knowledgeable Soccer One"

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#464167 - 03/05/12 11:20 AM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
rhrhrh Offline
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Registered: 03/31/10
Posts: 717
F..k HS ball. You say nepotism and politics? Kids who didn't play for the town club were cut from the varsity team. Brother of coach's friend was put on varsity team as a freshman. Money = playing time. Long-term resident = varsity plus playing time. HS soccer IS about making money, donations to the school's athletic program, a new library, a new gym.

You might have noticed that the son of the FORMER USMNT coach is rated among the top two players in our last friendly. You should ask what he did right (didn't coach his own kid until pro for one thing) and others did not do right.

There is nepotism and politics everywhere. Maybe we are in the minority to think that most HS ball is terrible, smashmouth, brawn over brains "soccer". But we are targeting academies so that my kid doesn't have to put up with HS soccer politics.

You guys say that soccer is not the US's top sport? Of course it is not. And that is exactly why HS soccer is useless at best, because non-soccer players are forced into the system because they are good athletes and don't want to play football.

The number of players who have several sports but also are playing on an academy team is virtually zero.

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#464181 - 03/05/12 11:49 AM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: rhrhrh]
Anonymous
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ANOTHER TAKE ON THIS..

Los Angeles Times

Expanded soccer academy decision is a win-win

Elite young U.S. players will get more training and more opportunities will be created for high school players.

By Kevin Baxter

March 3, 2012 -- When Marie Ishida, head of the one of the nation's largest governing bodies for high school athletics, first heard that U.S. Soccer was planning to force kids to choose between playing for their school and training to play for their country she protested in what she felt was the most appropriate way possible.

She wrote a letter.

"Well, that didn't settle very well with us," remembers Ishida, executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation, which oversees sports programs at more than 1,500 member schools. "They frankly stopped talking to us."

So it was hardly news when the U.S. Soccer Development Academy followed through on its promise and expanded the academy season three months to 40 weeks overall, from September to June, beginning next fall. What may have been surprising, though, was the fact that Ishida and others like her have apparently made their peace with the plan.

"Our attitude's kind of been 'OK, we lose the elite athletes. But that leaves a spot for somebody else,'" she says.

In fact, U.S. Soccer's decision — once fraught with controversy — benefits both the national program as well as high school and other youth leagues. For the national program, lengthening the calendar for academy players will help close a critical gap the U.S. has long conceded to other nations, where top youth players train for 10 or more months each year.

But because the academy is open to elite players only, the loss to high school and other programs will be fewer than 4,000 U 15-16 and U 17-18 male players nationwide — or less than 1% of the current player pool. So while that's not enough to seriously affect the level of play, it does create 4,000 opportunities for kids who might not have made the cut before.

What started out as a feud has ended in a cease-fire — with both sides rightly claiming victory.

"They said their goal was to win a World Cup and they felt the only way to do that was to identify some of these club programs early," Ishida says. "And frankly CIF — and any state association's goal — is not necessarily to produce World Cup athletes or Division I scholarship recipients.

"Our goal is about participation. And about competition."

Besides, much of the hand-wringing and doomsday scenarios from high school officials overlooked that the academy calendar's growth was not only inevitable, but in many places — such as Southern California, Texas and the Pacific Northwest — it had already taken place.

In fact, 23 of the 78 soccer academy clubs nationwide — including eight spread from Temecula to San Diego — expanded to 40 weeks of training and games more than a year ago. That's about 28 weeks longer than many high school programs — but still far fewer than those in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where high school-aged kids train 1,000 hours a year at the local academy, or in Barcelona, where training runs 16 hours a week for 11 months.

"These kids need more hours in focused, intense training environments with players that [have] similar talent and similar commitment and motivation," says Tony Lepore, director of scouting for U.S. Soccer.

And they simply can't get that in most high schools or colleges, which are frequently judged by the diverse number of sports they offer. While that makes U.S. school programs unique worldwide, it also means athletes are frequently limited in the number of hours they can devote to any one endeavor.

In sports such as soccer, that structure has created a huge "training deficit."

"Soccer is not an American-driven game. [Elsewhere] soccer is all global," says U.S. national team coach Juergen Klinsmann, who grew up in the German club system. "It's 11 months a year. You might get three or four weeks off. That's it. So if a kid goes to college [in the U.S.] and plays a three-month season, he loses eight months compared to all the other kids the same age.

"You're not catching up [to] that anymore. So we have to come in and tell the players, 'This is just reality.'"

If playing high school soccer won't prep you for the World Cup, though, here's another reality: Not every player has the talent, the drive or even the desire to go that far. So the fact that U.S. Soccer has finally stepped forward and offered a structured and competitive alternative for elite athletes doesn't detract from the high school game or grassroots youth programs.

On the contrary, it enhances them by making the sport available to more players than ever before.

"The Academy isn't for everyone," says Don Ebert, the director of coaching for the Irvine-based Strikers FC. "If your dream is to wear the [U.S.] jersey, get paid to play as a professional and represent your country, then this is a different avenue. It's more demanding, it does take 10 months and you do train three times a week, but it's a choice.

"We finally have a vehicle for the first time for families and players to choose what's right for them."

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#464257 - 03/05/12 03:33 PM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
Anonymous
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The reason why the US National Team will always be mediocre is that the best athletes in our country will almost always play another sport that offers a better chance for financial reward. And Soccer will never grow beyond its cult following because the US Media Industry cannot stand a sport in which they cannot show commercials every 2 to three minutes. So the Federation can pass a thousand silly rules but none of them will ever change these unpleasant facts-Kids who want to play HS and USSF will suffer. And nothing will change. We will still lose to Costa Rica and Hondorus in the games that matter- Sorry folks-

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#464275 - 03/05/12 05:29 PM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
Anonymous
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Yes, of course. Ths is why the US beat Italy for the first time last week.........

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#464284 - 03/05/12 05:58 PM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
Anonymous
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Im pretty sure the players on this MNT all played HS soccer and other school sports

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#464294 - 03/05/12 06:42 PM Re: High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way [Re: Anonymous]
Anonymous
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The subject of this tread has been dissected to the point of exhaustion in the Academy tread. So, to save everyone's time, just go there. I'm sure there's nothing you can post here that hasn't been analyzed to it's nuclear core

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