June 5, 2012
Club soccer certainly has its positives — the high level of competition and the interest of college recruiters being two of the biggest.
But so does high school soccer.
In the spring of 2013, many top Gwinnett boys players will have to choose one or the other.
The U.S. Soccer Development Academy switched to a 10-month schedule for 2012-2013, so the two Georgia clubs with Academy teams, Concorde Fire and Georgia United, will play a heavy travel schedule that continues through the high school soccer season. In years past, those teams took a break for high school soccer and played a five-month schedule against Academy teams from other states.
The top local boys players — maybe the top 30 or so — can't play for both Academy and high school teams in 2013. So they'll have to make a tough decision instead.
"It puts (the high-school kids) in a tough spot," outgoing Collins Hill boys soccer coach Drew Prentice said.
Prentice, who is taking over as director of coaching for the Dacula Soccer Club, had more Academy players than most the past few seasons. His 2012 Class AAAAA state championship team had five Academy players on it.
It's too bad the Academy players may have to miss out on the best parts of high school soccer. You get to represent your school. You get to play in front of all your friends and classmates. You get to play in front of large crowds, instead of Academy matches on fields with a few parents in lawn chairs along the sidelines.
"The atmosphere, there's no comparison (between high school and Academy)," Prentice said. "In high school, you play in front of your friends. People you see in the grocery store or the hallways at school stop and tell you 'Good game.' ... Academy is a very good program but there are also some very good characteristics of high school soccer, too."
Anyone who saw this year's AAAAA boys playoffs can tell you that.
The Collins Hill-Brookwood semifinal was played in front of a large crowd at Brookwood, then a few nights later another large crowd of roughly 4,000 people watched as the Eagles beat Centennial 3-1 for the state championship. As soon as that match ended, hundreds of high school and younger students from the Collins Hill cluster stormed the field to celebrate with the players. It was quite the scene, but unfortunately some kids might miss out on it next year.
It will be interesting to see which players choose the Academy route and which stick with their high school team. Some younger players, eager for a college scholarship and/or a look from the U.S. National Team coaches, will stick with the Academy route. Some seniors, who are already committed to a college, may return to their high school team.
What would you choose in this situation? High school or Academy?