WESTPORT — Faced with a choice in soccer very soon, Kyle Casey of Fairfield listened intently Thursday night at Staples High School as an local all-star panel tried to help him out.
“There were a lot of good points each way,” stated the future Fairfield Warde ninth-grader, who attended with his father, Dan, and about 100 others. “For a long time, I was thinking, `this is better,’ high school. Then, `this is better,’ Academy.”
The decision will come soon enough: The U.S. Soccer Development Academy is moving to a 10-month-a-year training program and requiring, with few exceptions, that its players train with them rather than play high school soccer.
For two hours, the panel — which included figures representing all sides of the debate, including a couple of college coaches — traded information and opinions. They concurred it could be a difficult decision for some players.
“It has helped. It really gave you more information about each decision,” Casey said. “I know more about high school, how that will help you, and Academy.”
Part of the Academy’s goal is a stronger national program, producing more elite athletes and competing for world titles.
“Right now, we are not there,” stated Brian Quinn, coach at one of the Academy programs in Connecticut, South Central.
Mickey Kydes, founder and president of Beachside Soccer Club (and Casey’s coach), stated he sees two huge problems with U.S. soccer: identifying talent and too many varied development processes.
“Unless we fix those two issues, I do not care if you train for nine months, six months, 12 months. I do not think there is a difference,” Kydes said. “The 2002 World Cup team was probably the ideal we ever fielded, and all of those children played high school soccer.”
Tommy Nickerson stood up later to state that he had played high school soccer, too, at Bacon Academy, as a freshman last year. He turned in that jersey to play for Oakwood Academy.
“It is a personal choice,” he said. “I gave up being that high school hero so I could surround myself with people better than me.
“Choosing Academy is not about going pro,” he added. “It’s about the right environment.”
The high-school side’s panelists noted their own environment, representing a school and a community.
And meanwhile, Clemson coach Mike Noonan stated he sees European soccer programs focusing more on education.
“We want to get closer to the rest of the world? The rest of the world is coming closer to the education paradigm,” he said.
The school will make available a video of the forum through staplessoccer.com.
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