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Coaches, players juggle CDA and high school soccer

New program for elite players changes dynamic for prep coaches
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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A new program on the youth soccer landscape is providing opportunities for national exposure to a group of elite local athletes, but not without introducing a whole new set of issues to high school soccer coaches. Placer United Soccer Club recently joined forces with San Juan Soccer Club to form the California Development Academy, which was given membership in the US Development Academy, the most prestigious soccer program in the country. “The focus of the Academy is player development,” said Paul O’Brien, vice manager of Placer United and one of the Academy’s coaches. “Academies provide players with the best possible opportunity to achieve their utmost potential as elite soccer players.” The program has brought together some of the region’s top boys players in the under-16 and under-18 age categories to participate in soccer competition at its highest level. While the program is a great opportunity for the athletes participating, its rigorous training schedule runs year-round and that is creating an interesting conflict for players seeking to participate in CDA while still enjoying their high school teams. While the program allows players to remain with their high school teams, that does not make it easy, as Academy players work out three times each week in addition to a daily high school schedule. “I had a little doubt when we first heard about CDA about doing both (high school soccer and CDA),” said Granite Bay sophomore and CDA U16 player Cody Giddings. “But last year was a great experience and I didn’t want to give that up. It works because all of us are really willing and want to be the best players around.” To their credit, the coaches who run CDA have reached out to some high school coaches and do adjust their workouts some while the players are in–season with the high school teams. “We support high school soccer but there is a huge difference in the standard of play (between CDA and high school teams),” O’Brien said. “We are not pushing the kids real hard during training as we recognize what is happening with school teams and school schedules.” In addition to the overwhelming training burden, the program has the potential to impact high school teams on the field. “A prior message put out by the head of Placer United Soccer on behalf of CDA via email promotes high school soccer but also indicates that if there is a conflict, that the player should defer to CDA first,” said Oakmont High coach Mark Broers. “My three players have also mentioned that their coaches reinforce this policy.” While Broers has not had to deal with players missing games thus far, other schools have. The Oakmont coach sees CDA as a compliment to his program, but also foresees potential conflicts coming up down the road, but those are balanced against the benefits of CDA. “I would expect that it could create negative conflict and each coach will be left to determine their own policies,” Broers said. “On the other hand, the kids are getting great coaching and playing with top level players. Players doing both will be stretched both time wise and physically. I'm trying to create a balance that allows the boys to do both without feeling stuck in the middle. I hope club coaches will do the same.” CDA and the other programs in the US Development Academy are set up to provide chances for more colleges and for the national team to see more of the most talented players competing against elite competition. “We see way more players from this area competing at a higher level,” O’Brien said. “My dream is to play soccer professionally,” Giddings said. “I want to get into a good college to play soccer and CDA provides a much higher competition along with exposure to national scouts. They even come to our training.” One of the major concerns that remains for some of the region’s high school coaches relates to the cost of programs like CDA and with the elevated expectation levels that follow. “Great players should be identified,” said Granite Bay high coach Steve Fischer. “What is the best way of doing that? Is CDA right for most ballplayers? Is competitive right for most players? There is a ton of money being made in all club sports. The coaches for those sports: volleyball, basketball, water polo, soccer, will all say that it is worth it. They are making a lot of money feeding those dreams. How many scholarships do they really get? Nobody ever publishes that information.” I think it is an interesting program for the very serious and dedicated youth soccer player,” Broers said. “I would have been interested in my day, but I'm not sure my parents could have paid for the expense. I don't know what it costs but some of the players and parents have tossed out some hefty figures. I hope really talented players aren't left out of the mix due to finances.” O’Brien points out that CDA is less costly that many people might think, and that scholarships are available to assist with the expense. “Placer United is one of the most cost-effective programs available anywhere,” O’Brien said. “No one wants to miss out on a kid that has a chance because of a financial issue.” With the amazing opportunity that this program offers to these fine young athletes, it also raises the question of the importance of sports in our society. As these young athletes and their families pour so much time and money into these programs, they clearly do not come with a guarantee. “Are sports about raising a child or are they about making pro athletes?” Fischer asked. “Being a father of two young ladies, I would argue that it is the former. How many pro soccer players have come from our region? A few, and I have coached several of them, but over 99 percent of players are in it for the love of the game and the intrinsic values of it.” Fischer has developed one of the region’s most respected soccer programs and pours his heart into the game and the players he works with. Like all of the high school coaches in the area, he is working hard to help the athletes under his guidance make all of this work. “I love the young men in my program who are involved with Academy,” Fischer said. “They are honest and pure in their desire. They want to succeed. I hope they all get college scholarships and they get the rewards they so richly deserve. I am working so that they will grow up into fine young men.” FYI: Local high school players on CDA teams: U16 Brett Alexander, Oakmont Seth Casiple, Rocklin Kellen Crow, Del Oro Cody Giddings, Granite Bay Connor Hallisey, Granite Bay Kendall Modiste, Granite Bay Ty Thompson (sophomore at Granite Bay High, not playing high school soccer this season) U18 Cole Alexander, Oakmont Conor Delaney, Rocklin Kody Duff, Oakmont Casey Meuser, Del Oro Tanner Roland, Roseville Lucas Schorer, Granite Bay CDA hosts its first US Soccer Development Academy games this weekend. Friday vs. Mustang Academy, U16 at 5:30 p.m., U18 at 7:30 p.m., Woodcreek High Stadium Sunday vs. Santa Cruz Academy, U16 at 1 p.m., U18 at 3 p.m. at Woodcreek High Stadium -Contact the writer at kurtj@goldcountrymedia.com.