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News - Details

New South Texas Academy Program to kick off in fall of 2016


Program designed to develop skills in a fun atmosphere for players ages 6 to 10
Club Application

MANOR, Texas (May 27, 2016) — The South Texas Youth Soccer Association is excited to announce the introduction of the South Texas Academy Program — a certified program that uses defined curriculum and qualified staff to teach individual skills to players 10 and younger.

The South Texas Academy Program, which is designed for players ages 6-to-10 and administered through local member associations, follows best-practice recommendations from both US Youth Soccer and U.S. Soccer for players in its primary age groups. The Academy philosophy focuses on the complete development of each player and provides an environment for boys and girls to learn through playing.

The program offers parent education while preparing both parents and players for the eventual transition to competitive soccer. South Texas joins a growing list of 20 US Youth Soccer State Associations that have implemented similar academies for young players, including fellow Region III states Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.

“The academy program is one step for us as a state association to shift our focus. The program will emphasize a strong collaboration component, involving clubs to help improve their environment,” South Texas Director of Coaching Neal Ellis said. “We will provide support tailored to their needs and together we will ensure a better opportunity for players to develop.”

Some specific aspects of the South Texas Academy Program that benefit players, parents and clubs include:

  • Roster flexibility for player movement and scheduling
  • State office support for member clubs that includes parent and coach education programs
  • Structure that reduces amount of travel and fees normally paid for out-of-town tournaments
  • Planned festival-style events that allow for multiple development-focused matches

“The South Texas Academy Program emphasizes player development over team development and focuses on creating an enjoyable, educational and beneficial environment for young players to further their love of the game,” said Jene Baclawski, Assistant Director of Coaching for South Texas. “The structure of the program and resources available help to bridge the gap between the early stages of recreational soccer and competitive programs, which players have the opportunity to transition to after their academy years.”

Players will be registered to the Academy Program rather than individual teams, which allows flexibility as rosters are drawn from the pool of available players for each age group and gender within a club. Once rosters for each playing week are created, players are ensured at least 50 percent playing time to help each individual get more time on the ball and maximize the benefits of every game.   

In addition to teaching players about the game through participation in the program, South Texas will provide parents with educational resources that help families understand the academy approach and benefits. Meetings and webinars will be available for coaches, parents and players, and education events will be planned to take place during Academy Festivals.

These educational initiatives seek to help parents and coaches best understand how to use the Academy model to improve individual player development, satisfaction and retention, and to build a less pressured youth soccer environment. In addition to educational meetings and materials, member clubs and coaches will have access to a structured curriculum, including training sessions and videos that cover the specific curriculum designed for 6-to-10-year-old players.

“We are excited to bring the Academy Program to players across South Texas. This philosophy has been successful in many other states, and we believe it provides the best environment for players, coaches and parents,” Baclawski said. “We look forward to the long-term benefits of an Academy approach and appreciate the support of our member clubs in creating a state-wide program at the younger ages that allows for development and allows children to learn to love playing the game.”

The U9/U10 age groups will play a 10-week Academy League format, which includes festivals, in-house games and home/away scheduling with other academy programs. The U7/U8 age groups will also play a 10-week format, with a majority of in-house games to coincide with monthly festivals. Younger festivals will be hosted zonally to avoid long travel and reduce costs to families.

Several clubs in the state have already been implementing similar academy programs and are excited for the introduction of the South Texas Academy Program in the fall. Here is some feedback on the benefits of the program for players 10 and younger:

“When we initially brought in the idea of not having teams in our academy program, there was some opposition from parents, but by the second season everyone bought into it,” said Tony McKernan, Academy Director for FC Padre Hurricanes. “We have implemented many of the guidelines the South Texas Academy Program is introducing, and the format has allowed players to interact with many different teammates and to get a lot more out of playing the games.”

“The key point is that we’re educating not only the players, but the parents and the coaches — bringing everyone together to help improve the process,” said Oscar Draguicevich, Director of Coaching at Sting Austin SC. “The Academy Program is creating an environment that fosters development and takes winning away from the forefront to allow kids to enjoy the game to its fullest.”

“Our teams have been involved in academy programs and each year they have made changes to better the entire program,” said Mike Abalos, Director of Academy for New Braunfels Ajax SC. “This year, STYSA and Neal Ellis have gone above and beyond to help provide the proper knowledge and curriculum in running an academy program. This will provide everyone the knowledge to develop our youth players under the new USSF changes and is great for everyone involved.”

For more information on the South Texas Academy Program, visit and to submit a club application for the 2016-17 Academy Program, please complete this form.


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