High school soccer in Colorado has been forced to adopt a new look over the past few seasons.
Many of the best players are skipping high school soccer because of the commitment to play with Developmental Academy teams.
“We’ve got three or four or five players roaming the halls that are not playing for us,’” said Mark Hampshire, who is the coach of Arapahoe’s defending state champions and No. 1 ranked 5A team in the state this year. “I think unfortunately that is the way it is for a lot of folks.
“We have some guys that could have played DA but they realize the importance of high school, that it is going to get then farther that developmental. “
Developmental Academies are designed for elite players looking to play collegiate soccer and maybe beyond, so practices and games are against top-flight competition, which challenges player to improve their skills. According to U.S. Soccer, the academy’s philosophy is based on increased training, fewer total games and more meaningful matches. Players are showcased for college recruiters.
The major controversy surrounding the 10-month DA season is that players and teams cannot play in any outside competition, which includes high school soccer. Boys DA programs started in 2007 with six age groups starting at U12. Girls DA programs began in 2017 with four age groups.
“We lost anywhere between four to six players, which is unfortunate because soccer keeps pushing that on families and kids,” said Heritage coach Adam Buseck after the Eagles lost 1-0 to Arapahoe in a rivalry game. “They can’t hardly get out of their own way.
“A couple of those kids who played DA are here, watching our game. They want to play but they also have to follow their own choices.
“U.S. Soccer is one of the organizations that they think they know what is right.”
There are two DA programs per gender in Colorado. Colorado Real has both boys and girls DA programs. The Rapids has a boys DA program and Colorado Rush has a girls program.
“There is a place for high school just as I think there is a place for the developmental academy,” said Colorado Real chief operating officer Jared Spires. “For a club like Real, we’re not saying the developmental academy is the right thing any more than we are saying high school is the right thing,
“We want to be at the forefront of club soccer and currently that is the developmental academy. To participate in that we have to abide by U.S. Soccer’s mandates, which says kids don’t play high school sports if they are in your developmental academy.
“We’re not saying the academy is better. We tell our academy players there is nothing that stops them from being involved in their high schools in different ways. We are just saying when it comes to soccer, because of the Developmental Academy rules, you can’t play.”
Requests for comments from U.S. Soccer were not returned.
Jim Engels coached club soccer for 30 years and is the boys and girls coach at Ponderosa.
“DA has hurt high school soccer a lot just from the standpoint of talent level,” he said. “We still have good soccer in high school but we lost a lot of talented players, both boys and girls. It hurts the kids, too, because very kid I’ve talked to either would rather play high school or comes back and plays high school.
“To me the academies are all about money. It’s expensive, plus it burns kids out. If you don’t play academy and just play on a regular club team, you can play both high school and club. I know all the high school coaches are frustrated.”
Each week, performances of south metro athletes and teams will be highlighted. This week’s performances were selected from games, matches and meets from Sept. 5-12
Tarek Salem of Highlands Ranch recorded four birdies and a bogey during his round of 3-under-par 69 on Sept. 9 at Blackstone Golf Club as he captured medalist honors in the Continental League golf tournament. Highlands Ranch was first in the team standings.
Anna Reimers tossed a five-inning no-hitter, striking out 10 of the 15 batters she faced, and Erin Keen went 3-for-4 with six runs batted in as Rock Canyon’s softball team downed Bear Creek, 16-0, on Sept. 5.
Senior Blake Rarog averaged six yards per carry while rushing for 143 yards and three touchdowns to help Legend’s football team post a 35-20 homecoming win on Sept. 5 over Poudre.
Chaparral, ranked second in the CHSAANow.com Class 5A volleyball poll, defeated the state’s top-ranked 4A team, Lewis Palmer, 3-0, on Sept. 10. Senior Julianna Dalton was Chaparral’s Player of the Match with two kills, four service aces, six blocks and eight digs.
Castle View scored 14 second-half points to seal a 27-7 football win over Chaparral on Sept. 12 and will take a 3-0 record into the Sept. 20 game against Castle Rock rival Douglas County. The Sabercats have won the last four games played against Douglas County.
Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303-566-4083.
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