An article by Liz Wolfe
The United Soccer Club (USC) Academy helps kids develop a lifelong passion for the sport by encouraging "excellence over success." The academy follows a simple but innovative philosophy which places individual players and player development first.
"We like to plant and nourish the passion for soccer by teaching the art of the game from an early age. This is why our focus is on the individual, rather than a team," says USC president Klaus Baedorf. "We are more concerned with the player gaining the right knowledge and skills, as opposed to just winning games."
The academy, an elite branch of the 500-member strong USC, is designed for serious players who have the potential to compete at a college or professional level. With a core group of 60 players ranging from ages 7 to 16, the academy program develops self-motivated athletes, critical thinkers and good decision makers.
Academy participants train year-round at various locations in North Toronto, and also have the opportunity to play on a competitive league team affiliated with the Soccer Academy Alliance Canada (SAAC).
Baedorf, who founded the USC in 2001, played soccer semi-professionally in Germany before coming to Canada. He has dedicated his life to working with kids who are enthusiastic about the sport, even allowing junior academy players to attend additional training sessions each week at no cost.
"If they are so interested in soccer that they're going to get off the computer and come play an extra session, we will be happy campers. We're not going to charge them, because that's exactly what we want; to inspire a love of the game."
USC Academy coach Konstantin Rabinovich agrees. "We do everything we can to create a positive environment for our players," says Rabinovich, who first discovered soccer as a child in Israel. "We have a highly-trained coaching staff from many parts of the world, including Canada, USA, Europe and Africa, which I believe transfers a great vision of the game to our players."
In addition to discovering and training the next generation of world-class Canadian soccer players, the academy also introduces its serious contenders to international decision-makers, says Baedorf. "If a player is good enough, we will invite foreign coaches here to see them play. We will arrange tryouts for European clubs. We will create promotional videos for them. We will do whatever we can to help them succeed at an international level."
Trent Fulton is enthusiastic about the academy's approach. "As someone who has three boys and has experienced many soccer programs around the city, I can confidently say USC is by far the best I have come across," says Fulton, whose sons, Max and Ben, both play on USC teams.
"Klaus and his coaches make academy level soccer easy on the parents. It's just so well organized, we build the rest of the family calendar around it! As for the kids, the coaches find the perfect balance between drills, fitness and fun. My lads are pumped every time we go."
Interested families can see the USC Academy in action by attending a free practice or signing up for a soccer camp: KixKids (age 5 to 7) or Elite (age 8 to 16) at Havergal College. For more information, call (416) 782-1248 or visit www.usc-academy.ca.