September 7, 2011
The Upside of College Soccer: what you gain from the college experience
I’ve been thinking (and writing) about the benefits of the European academy-based youth soccer system, which develops professional players from very young ages, preparing them thoroughly for all aspects of highly competitive international play.
I came through this system myself, playing for the Leeds United Academy in England. But as a former student athlete in the U.S., I’m also a huge proponent of the American college soccer system, despite my questions regarding its ability to create players fierce enough to compete on the world stage. I’ve never regretted leaving home at 18 to play soccer and study at the University of North Carolina. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I enjoyed every minute of it.
I believe both systems – college and academies – have strengths and weaknesses that are flipsides of the same coin. The major weakness of the intensely-focused academy system, solely designed to feed pro teams, is that it offers players little to no plan for life after soccer. The strength of the college system is that it develops the whole person.