Next Generation Series News Release
Sunday, September 22, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. – The inaugural event for the Next Generation Series came to a close today as 11 boys and girls teams from some of the top clubs in the southeast were able to enjoy a taste of professional-level training, testing and education. With the Phase I event complete, teams will put NextGen’s development-focused lessons into practice for the next six months before returning for the second NextGen Series event in April, 2014.
Inspired by the consistent message from youth coaches seeking a fresh development initiative geared for younger players, NextGen focuses on the U12 and U14 age groups and strives to develop the complete elite youth soccer player through a defined regimen of training, competition, testing, and evaluation. NextGen is a partnership between USL and IMG Academy.
“I think we’ve had a great weekend. Everything went as planned and the feedback from the players and parents in particular, has been first class,” USL National Technical Director Peter Mellor said. “That’s the type of response we want to hear to know we’re on the right track for developing these young athletes to move forward.”
In addition to on-field training and games, participants at this weekend’s kickoff event took part in IMG’s world-renowned i360 Athlete Evaluation program and classroom instruction regarding athlete body management, nutrition and mental conditioning. Coaches and parents were included in classroom education sessions designed to place the focus on development and prepare players for the commitment necessary to reach the elite level.
“Overall this was a great learning step for all the players,” VSI Pinellas U13 and U14 boys Head Coach Eddie Loewen said. “It was a professionally-run event and we’re going to take a lot of data from the performance testing so we can see how we improve during the coming months. It’s going to be important for the players to now apply the knowledge they learned in the classroom sessions about nutrition, how to prepare professionally for a game, and how to deal mentally with pressure and difficult situations.
“It’s a key that they get the message now, and I wish when I was younger that I’d had the opportunity to do these kinds of things. Right now they’re in the golden stage of learning, they’re anywhere between 12 and 14 years old, and that’s a great time for players to learn the basics that will help them to be the player they want to be, whether it’s a college player or a professional player. If you want to be a professional you have to act like a professional, and it’s good for them to learn it now.”
Clubs taking part in the kickoff event for the NextGen Series included Celtic FC Florida, Houston Dynamo of Tampa, Jacksonville Youth Soccer Club, Knoxville Soccer Academy, and the VSI Pinellas Flames. Texas-based NextGen clubs Austin Texans Soccer Club, Samba Football Club and SA United Soccer Club will join in for NextGen’s final inaugural-season event in April.
“This is a very impressionable age, and coming to a facility like IMG and playing on beautiful Bermuda fields and going through a well-structured program during the weekend, if that doesn’t get you excited I don’t know what will,” Mellor said. “I think everything about the weekend has been very positive, and we believe as a league that this is the route they should be taking for player development.
“Again, I think we’re onto something good. We’re looking forward to all these parents and players going back to their environments and spreading the word about NextGen.”
The world’s largest and most advanced multi-sport training and education complex, IMG Academy hosts myriad soccer team training camps each year and has recently welcomed clubs such as the Seattle Sounders, the Chicago Fire, D.C. United, the Columbus Crew, Sweden’s Malmö FF, as well as the U.S. Women’s National Team preparing for the London Olympic Games and the Antigua & Barbuda Men’s National Team preparing for World Cup qualifying.