This week, the Minnesota United Development Academy welcomed members of U.S. Soccer’s Academy Directors course to the Twin Cities and the team’s training facility in Blaine. Course participants, who hail from clubs and soccer organizations across the country, go through a year-long course to earn an Academy Director’s license. New to the program this year is a mentorship component, with directors who have gone through the program working with current participants. MNUFC Development Academy director Tim Carter is one of the mentors.
“It’s a unique experience,” said Carter. “As I shared with this group of Academy Directors, when we've gone around and looked at academies here or abroad, we've usually gone some place where the academy's been up and running for years. Here, they're coming to an MLS club that's in the start-up mode right now. So what they're getting from us will be very different than if they went to an academy that's been around for four or five years. We're hoping to share with them some of the things we're doing, but also to hear back from them some of the challenges that they've encountered. Perhaps they have some suggestions for us that make sense.”
Participants attended presentations by MNUFC Sporting Director Manny Lagos, Director of Player Personnel Amos Magee and Academy General Manager Ryan Brooks, in addition to meetings with Carter about start-up of the MNUFC Academy.
“Our objective here is to help them in their task of being an academy director,” said Jay Hoffman, one of the instructors in the course. “To help them in regard to mentoring the coaches in their club, to help them in regard to developing a philosophy and a vision and a mission, to help them in regard to developing their leadership. It's an exchanging of ideas. Hopefully they can all learn from each other — take the best, leave the rest, adapt it for what works for their individual environments.”
The MNUFC Development Academy, through its partnership with Minnesota Youth Soccer Association and other clubs and organizations throughout the state, aims to build a robust pathway for youth soccer players to travel as they grow, both as players and as people. That kind of vision and leadership is what the Academy Directors course nurtures.
“Our ultimate goal is that they're directing the academy, that they're educating the coaches within their academies,” said Hoffman. “If we can do this, it's going to raise the level of the quality of the players that come out, raise the level of the quality of the coaches, raise the level of the environments. Our mantra is 'better coaches, better environment, better players.’”
U.S. Soccer has graduated 34 participants in the course since it began in 2013, and this year’s class of 18 will become an integral part of U.S. Soccer’s mission to make a positive impact on the game nationwide as they return to their academies. Opening up the burgeoning MNUFC Development Academy to them is a way for Carter and the rest of his staff to share best practices as well as learn what these Academy Directors are doing in their clubs.