A crowd of 200 — from across Connecticut, representing a broad variety of interests — came to the Staples High School auditorium last night. They were drawn by “Choices and Challenges: The Changing Face of High School Soccer.”
The event — sponsored by the Staples boys soccer program, the Top of the Hill Team and Westport Soccer Association — was an attempt to provide insights into the recent decision by the US Soccer Development Academy to institute a 10-month season, and explore the ramifications for high school soccer.
Moderator Mark Noonan elicited a variety of points of view. College coaches Kevin Anderson (Columbia) and Mike Noonan (Clemson) praised the Academy for raising the level of American soccer, while noting that they do not limit their recruiting to Academy teams only.
High school soccer coaches Dan Woog (Staples) and Steve Waters (Farmington) described the social, community, academic — and soccer — benefits of high school programs. Academy representatives Rick Derella (Oakwood) and Brian Quinn (South Central) discussed the technical and tactical benefits — leading to the national team level — of their programs.
Premier club representatives Mickey Kydes (Beachside) and Alex Cundiffe (Everton) spoke about “soccer culture” as it relates to American club and high school teams, and the rest of the world.
Staples alum Steve Baumann — who now works with an inner-city Philadelphia soccer/educational foundation — spoke from an educator’s perspective on the developmental aspects of soccer. Former Wrecker and college captain Matt Lamb said that end of his high school career was most disappointing not for losing the state championship on a golden goal, but because it meant the end of his many years of playing with his best friends.
“Anyone who came looking for ‘the answer’ to the question of ‘high school vs. Academy’ didn’t get it tonight,” Woog said.
“But that wasn’t the purpose. We wanted to give players and parents a little better understanding of where everyone is coming from. Those of us on the panel may disagree on certain things, but I think we all delivered the message that the decision is an individual one, and it’s based on many factors.
Each player and his parents have to think about what he wants out of soccer, what his goals are, why he plays, what’s important to him, what priority soccer holds compared to the other parts of his life, the training and playing environments on his club and high school teams — and the answer is different for everyone.”
A videotape of the forum will be available soon — check the home page of StaplesSoccer.com for details.
(Dan Donovan, Todd Coleman, Jem Sollinger, Cathy Utz, Paula Argosh and Julia Hood helped organize and run the event.)