The Road to Nowhere
For those of you who watched the Jay Demerit Story, you saw the story of a very quality player who almost never played after high school. Luckily his high school coach was good friends with the head coach at University of Illinois Chicago and so he was able to play there. After graduating he played with the Chicago Fire reserves for a bit, but then was cut. At this point is when he decided to move to Europe and go after chances to play there. He and his friend Kieren went to different countries in Europe trying to obtain trials with no luck. After about a year he returned home to Wisconsin, to work over the summer before then going back to England and staying at Kieren’s mother’s house. He was a sub coming off the bench in a Sunday, pub league for a team called Southall. He eventually started playing more for that team more and doing well. Then he finally caught a break. He was able to go play one game for a team called Northwood and they just so happened to be playing Watford FC who was in the Championship league (2nd division of English Football). Jay played well that game and was invited for a 2 week trial. He took advantage of the 2 weeks and was then signed to a 1 year deal. Watford was soon promoted to the Premier league, and now Jay was playing in the top league in English Football. The US Men’s team got word of Jay and he was able to play for the national team too. I just wanted to recap that story because it outlines so well how you can be an awesome player in America and go nowhere. There are many non soccer challenges to overcome. Challenges such as living in small town for example. It is all about exposure. You can be a great player but now you have to market that, and get yourself in front of the right people, which can be very hard in this country. You have to play for a good club, that goes to big college showcases. Then hopefully you go to a prominent soccer school, and get drafted. Just recently the MLS has started their academies which is a great step for young players so they can be seen by professional organizations and climb the ladder to the pros. When I was young this was not an option. Nothing similar existed. In order to be seen in America, you have to play for a good club that goes to college showcases as I stated above. You need to get film and send that to coaches. You need to go to college ID camps. You need to email and call coaches. Ask coaches to come to your games and tell them why you are interested in their school, what field you’ll be playing on, what number you are, and what time your games are. You have to use your entire network of connections coaches, players, anyone who can help connect you). Think about doing ODP. Is that something that can help you by being on the state or regional team? You know who goes D1? The ones who are 100% committed to going D1. Sure they are good players but not necessarily the best. It’s the ones who make videos, email and call coaches relentlessly, use every piece of their network possible, go to college camps, play for a club that goes to showcases, maybe do ODP. Some of things the player can control and some they cannot. Clearly calling and emailing they can. As far as what club you play for that depends on where you live, and if your parents can drive you far away, etc. So for a player from a smaller area, it can be really disappointing, that you don’t get the same level exposure. It is strange because it almost becomes less about ability and more about pedigree and resume. You need to be good, but need the resume to go along with it. Do you know what the difference is between a D1 and D3 in mens soccer? The depth. Typically your best players on a D3 school are more than good enough to be starting on that D1 team. But when you look at your starting 11 on the D3 after the 7th or 8th player you can sometimes start to see a bit of a drop. I don’t like to generalize though because different programs in different parts of the country are at different levels. There are NAIA, D2 and D3 programs that can beat D1 programs. I want to compare this process to how soccer works in England. College sports on a high competitive level, doesn’t really exist anywhere in Europe. All the serious soccer players join pre professional academies tied to a pro team. There are clear routes to the pros in England where you can gain exposure from a young age. (So you don’t have to go through what Jay Demerit went through) As you can see in the table below there are 92 fully pro teams in England. Those 92 teams are in 4 divisions. That is in a space of 50,346 miles squared with a population of 56 million people. Whereas in the US we have 26 pro teams (started with 10 in 1996) in a space of 3.797 million miles squared with a population of 328.2 million. (Now a couple of side points here. 1. There is the USL in America but the average income is not full time. 2. Per capita more people play soccer in England.) England USA Number of pro teams. 92 26 Population 56 mil 328.2 mil Size of country 50,346 miles squared 3.797 million miles squared Iowa is bigger than England. Iowa is 56,272 miles squared. Do you know how many pro teams there are in Iowa? Zero. Imagine having 92 pro teams in the size of Iowa. You can drive everywhere! Forget expensive flights. Forget always having to get a hotel. Most all of the professional clubs in England have youth academies. So you don’t have to worry about exposure as much. All you have to worry about is being a good soccer player. With so many pro teams with youth academies in such a small area, you have much more opportunity to play professionally. Here in America you can be great, and never be seen. Or at least it’s much harder to be seen. I genuinely have questions like how was Christian Pulisic able to join Borussia Dortmund's youth academy? I know in part due to his dad being somewhat connected. Also Jurgen Klinsmann was the US coach and had all the german connections. This probably helped Josh Sargent and others playing in Germany. Lastly being American is a challenge because some Europeans look down upon Americans in the soccer world. They think they are superior. No matter how good you are that is a challenge that American’s will have to deal with. I have dealt with it repeatedly as a player and a coach. Maybe one day to get my revenge I’ll go over to Europe and act like I’m an amazing basketball coach since I’m American….