Academy Affiliate weekend provides one-of-a-kind experience for youth players

It was an eventful three days for Academy Affiliates as the Sporting Club Network held its second Academy Affiliate Tournament and All-Star experience. The events began on the morning of August 1 as All-Stars from Under-12 and Under-14 Academy Affiliates made their way to Sporting Kansas City’s official training grounds, Swope Soccer Village, and joined fellow All-Stars from around the Midwest to begin preparation for their matches against Sporting Kansas City’s own Academy teams.

Senior team technical staff members led the All-Stars through training sessions in the morning and afternoon, focusing on the same technical and tactical ideas as the senior team.

After the conclusion of the morning sessions, players were given a tour of Sporting Kansas City’s locker rooms and player lounge area. As they relaxed and rehydrated, Sporting Kansas City Performance Analyst Ashley Wallace gave the players an inside look into how the senior team scouts and prepares for upcoming opponents. Clips of goals from the 2014 FIFA World Cup were shown and dissected to find where the breakdowns in the defense occurred and how they could be corrected. The All-Stars were then invited to give their own thoughts on what went wrong and how the players and teams should have properly defended.

Prior to the start of Friday night’s match between Sporting Kansas City and the Philadelphia Union, the All-Stars were given a special surprise. As they were escorted on field, a PA announcement echoed around Sporting Park and a live shot of the players was splashed across the videoboard as they were recognized for their accomplishments.

Players, coaches and parents were treated to a variety of special events throughout the weekend to complete the unique experience, including all of the following: a pre-game "chalk talk" in which assistant coach John Pascarella gave a scouting report on Philadelphia, access to a field-level view for pre-game warmups, a presentation by Istvan Urbanyi on the use of numbered positions in the professional game, a player appearance by Sporting KC homegrown goalkeeper Jon Kempin and a catered barbecue by Two Guys and a Grill.

Saturday saw the beginning of the Academy Affiliate Tournament, held at the Overland Park Soccer Complex, as teams began play against fellow Affiliates from six different states. In the evening, the U12 and U14 All-Star boys took on Sporting KC’s own Academy team while the U14 All-Star girls competed against Sporting Blue Valley’s ECNL team. Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes coached the U-12 boys and U-14 girls while Jimmy Conrad, newly inducted into the Sporting Legends, coached the U-14 boys.

Even an unexpected downpour on Sunday morning couldn’t put a damper on the weekend. Teams regrouped after a two-hour delay and competed in their final games of the tournament before heading home to begin their new seasons.

For more information on the Academy Affiliate program, visit SportingKC.com/SCN/academyaffiliates and follow the Sporting Club Network on Twitter and Facebook.

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