Earlier this month, the FC Cincinnati Academy started their inaugural Discovery Program in an effort to both identify local youth talent and provide MLS-level education and training to local coaches and players.
The program, which began Oct. 3 and runs through Nov. 15, includes 38 players from 10 different clubs around the Greater Cincinnati region who train at the Mercy Health Training Center once a week. With ages ranging from 12 to 14, this is one piece of the FC Cincinnati Academy player identification process in which potential future Academy players are identified and monitored.
“One, it’s for player identification, and really an early player identification tool for us,” said Larry Sunderland, FCC’s director of player development. “Two, it’s an opportunity for us to work in the community. It’s a program that’s been open to all of the local clubs. We’re just beginning the process, but we’ve reached out to clubs and asked them to recommend their top talent to be a part of the Discovery Program.”
Any player participating is still registered to their club team and continues to represent his club team in their respective practices and games. However, the FCC Discovery Program is designed to build relationships with local clubs, enhance player development in the region and help players understand the quality, skill and attributes needed to earn a place at an MLS academy.
FCC is fielding two Academy teams in the 2019-20 season: Under-15’s and Under-17’s. But with the player ID program focusing on the region’s younger players, these sessions are a step in identifying potential FCC Academy players in future years.
In addition, local clubs and their coaches can join to observe and learn from the MLS team’s Academy coaches, Sunderland said.
“The third piece of the program is also coaching education. We’ve been reaching out to these clubs and also encouraging them to send coaches to the program, not just players” he said. “As these relationships continue to develop, we’ll be getting local youth coaches out and ingrained in our system, and they’ll be more and more involved in actually running the training sessions with our Academy staff and sharing ideas.”
As players age, the pathway to the pros shrinks. The Discovery Program serves as an opportunity for players to learn aspects of their game they need to develop to become better players … players who may have the potential to one day don the Orange and Blue of their hometown club.
“It’s really important for us to network and be a part of the soccer community,” Sunderland said. “That’s a work in progress as we’ve had so much to do to get the Academy off the ground in such a short period of time. But, it’s really important for us to have familiarity and collaboration with the local soccer community.”
Adrian Parrish, the U-17 assistant coach, has been a local coach and helps lead the Discovery Program. In addition, Dave Schureck, who was FCC’s former goalkeeper coach, is now the academy goalkeeping coach and team administrator. Both are helping with the Discovery Program.
“Adrian and Dave are guys that we really rely on to help us build some of these relationships,” Sunderland said. “They know our youth development system here in the Tri-State region and together, they can help us work with the youth programs to gradually improve the overall level of play in the area. Ultimately, that’s going to be better for everyone … youth players and clubs, FC Cincinnati and, ultimately, U.S. Soccer and the various national team programs.”