The USSDA recently announced a massive expansion of the Development Academy program within the younger age groups. Washington Rush and Florida Rush were both granted USSDA status from U12-U14 age groups after having U12 ages last year. Florida Rush President Richie Gray and Andy Machin, Academy Director at Washington Rush recently took some time to discuss the expansion and how it is positively affecting their clubs.
1.) Can you provide a brief breakdown of how the club did during the past year as a U12 Academy Club?
Florida: Florida Rush U12 DA program (at right) has been very competitive in its inaugural season. From the results we can surmise that if a league table was maintained they would stand about mid table. Most importantly, both individually and from a team perspective we have shown significant improvement over the season.
Washington: Our first year (U12's pictured below) has been a fantastic learning experience for our group. We are working closely with the Seattle Sounders and have recently placed 2 of our 2005’s playing up in the DA in their Sounders Discovery Program.
2.) How do you see adding U13/14 ages helping the club in the Orlando/Seattle markets?
Florida: The Development Academy Program focuses on positively impacting everyday club environments to assist in maximizing youth player development. Florida Rush is proud to have been chosen to participate in the Development Academy and we're excited to work towards meeting the mission of the DA - which is to develop world class players. With the recent announcement by US Soccer which expands the Academy at Florida Rush from the U12 age group to now include the U13 and U14 teams, it will create a greater player development pathway. In addition, highly qualified coaches, more meaningful training and an elite schedule will attract the most ambitious players in Central Florida.
Washington: The Development Academy brings us in line with the rest of the world in terms of player development. The commitment to more training than games is a step in the right direction. It has definitely given our players a more structured training environment and more consistency with their game schedule.
3.) What do you see as being the next steps needed to be invited into the Full academy U12-U19?
Florida: In order to be invited to the full DA Academy, Florida Rush aim to create the best possible environment in order to facilitate player development.
Washignton: We are working closely with the Sounders which was the key behind this league being put in place, we have an agreement we will not compete against them at the older ages.
4.) How are the local players responding to being in the U12 Academy and now having the opportunity to continue on within that system for another few years?
Florida: Florida Rush players have responded very well to the expectations of the DA and Florida Rush. They are engaged in their growth both on and off the field and are excited to continue their development through the U13 and U14 age groups.
Washington: There is a lot of excitement to playing in the DA, however we still don’t feel the message has travelled firmly around the state.