Development Academy Season is Upon Us
Well, the boys in the Development Academy (DA) began training in early August and this weekend marks the start of their season which goes through the end of June 2019. For those unfamiliar with the DA, it is an initiative from US Soccer which aims to build elite soccer players by creating a professional environment amongst youth clubs. The DA began in 2007 and has a philosophy of increasing the amount of training, playing less games, but making those games more meaningful by utilizing international rules and standards. Last fall, the DA expanded to create an academy system on the girl’s side of the game as well. You can learn more about the DA here.
There is a fair amount of criticism directed toward the DA, as this article suggests. Some of the criticism centers around the regulations that players may not play for their high school teams while a member of the DA. Others have been critical and have suggested that the DA failed to produce a team that could make the World Cup. Criticism aside, the DA is unlikely to go away any time soon.
So what does chaplaincy look like in the DA?
As Soccer Chaplains United continues to serve more in the DA, there are more spaces where we see care needs emerge. To name a few:
- Pressure — the young kids, from age 12, know that there exists the possibility of becoming a professional soccer player. From age 12 on, players in the DA on the boys and girls side, are perhaps as close as one might be (aside from perhaps being in a draft pool) to achieving a dream of playing soccer professionally. While coaches and DA administrators are quite careful to not “over-promise,” the truth is that for some, this is as close as they will ever come.
- Sacrifice — it goes without saying that players and families in the DA make a tremendous sacrifice. The DA season is a 10-month commitment. Athletes are not allowed to play other sports or be on other teams. Training can consist of 3-4 days per week and weekend games. Travel and vacation plans must take into consideration the DA calendar. Some families and players are moving across the country to accept a DA placement. Some players are moving and living with host families or into residency programs to try and make their dreams a reality. Similarly, clubs make a sacrifice as well. The DA costs, in some settings are born entirely by the club. A huge investment is being made (and this, of course, adds to the pressure mentioned above).
- Team ≠ Family — sometimes the terms “team” and “family” get used interchangeably and synonymously (this is more general to sport, as well). In some ways, a team can have similarities to family, but in other ways this couldn’t be farther from the truth. For example, we are born in to families (for better or worse) and regardless of how we interact or relate with those members (or don’t) we remain connected to them. Not so in the world of sport. There are fewer and fewer stories in modern sport that can claim familial ties.
These needs and more are represented within the DA community. The chaplains and counselors of Soccer Chaplains United are uniquely position to try and offer help and support to those individuals and families that accept a place in todays DA. Whether the needs be spiritual, or emotional, or mental our aim is to help these young kids and their families navigate through this intense season and time of life.