Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Developing talent

About a year ago, I talked to Brad Friedel about his plans for a youth academy in Ohio. It was actually still in the process of being built and planned and such. I believe it's in its just completed its first full year or it's been opened right around there. Things seem to be heading in the right direction for Premier Soccer Academies.

The PSA just had two of its year-round members invited to Bradenton for the full-time residency program there - Victor Garza of Edinburg, Texas and Joel Nash of Birmingham, Ala.

I know Friedel sounded enthusiastic about the project when talking about it and how the entire youth system in the United States was ass backwards. He said something to the effect that kids train once a week and play a bunch of games on the weekend and he said it should be multiple training sessions a week and one game on the weekend. He also said many youth coaches were just in it for the money. It was a really good interview and he seemed very passionate about it.

Anyway, here's what he said in a press release about Garza and Nash and the US national team.

“It is a tremendous honor to have any of our players be selected for their current national team,” said Brad Friedel, President and Co-Founder of PSA. “We are delighted to have Joel and Victor further their career playing for their country. It is our goal at PSA to give every player the opportunity to reach their goals and this is a prime example as these two players move to the next level.”

And this is the description of the PSA from the same press release

PSA is the first residential soccer academy of its kind offering full year-round scholarships to athletes in an effort to develop the next generation of professional soccer players. Each year players from across the globe, ages 12-17, will be recruited based on ability and skill level, not the parents’ ability to pay. Additional athletic, academic, and health/nutrition programs along with an assortment of different level coaching clinics, will be offered throughout the year targeting all ages and skill levels. Facilities are state-of-the-art and include three and a half soccer fields, indoor fieldhouse, 5,000-square-foot workout facility, student housing and academic learning center. PSA officially opened August 20, 2007 with the arrival of the first class of residency members.

MLS' development system is nowhere near as developed as Brad Friedel's which is a shame because they've got a 12-year head start on him. And even if teams do develop young talent there are so many loopholes and restrictions and stuff that they could miss players anyway.

Perhaps it will take Friedel and others like him to get a true youth development system in place in the US so we can start seeing youngsters develop like they should right here in the US.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see someone doing this. It seems to me if MLS teams took Y.D. seriously they would follow this route. I am glad to see that G. Rios and CUSA Youth are free to the participants. I do think based on the club culture, that the MLS teams that will get on board with the idea of PSA are CUSA, RedBulls,and DCU. But i think if teams like Crew, KC RSL want to be successfull, they will need residency programs because they won't have the drawing power of LA or CHI or NY for big name foreign talent. Lets hope this takes off, because with our infrastructure and technology, if any country can produce players at the clip argentina and brazil do its the US.

Mister Zero said...

I live a couple miles from this academy. Really hard to believe a place like this is located here - not soccer supporter area at all although lots of youth soccer being played. I think many US fans are under the impression an academy like this is being done with the goal of improving the MLS or the US national team. I don't exactly get that impression. Friedel sounds like a guy who is just fed up with crap youth coaching and is out to make a difference in kids lives here in the US. Clearly, he's had a ton of bad coaching and wants to end it. I ran into the Blackburn team in the airport a couple weeks ago. Surprised they did not win the tournament - but a team from Texas actually won it I believe. I think the main take-away is, good coaching is hard to come by, and Friedel wants to gather as many good coaches in one place and make a difference in these American kids lives and give them the kind of coaching you can find abroad.

Anonymous said...

Full props to Friedel - dude's a Rock Star.

Always wondered where the $ is in this deal? How does he make it pay? Full scholarships for the kids (again - hat's off), kids are to young to be 'sold' to clubs... Who's bankrolling this and how do they keep the books in the black?

Anonymous said...

Friedel said that he and some other investors were bankrolling it. My guess is that it is a situation where you operate in the red until you sell players at 14 or 15 to push you in the black. I hope that he does get some of the top talent, at least from the US and force MLS to take youth development seriously. It is so disappointing to see countries who are unable to even compete on the same level as the US in most sports DOMINATE in youth soccer development.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure they also provide spots for kids that pay, quite a lot.

I believe they're going to become a Columbus Crew Youth Development set-up, so they'd likely receive money from that.

They also host tournaments, training camps, etc, that will earn them extra money.

It seems like they could have contracts with players that if they reach a certain level they must give a cut, but that would be complete speculation on my part.