With the NSCAA Convention and MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia this week, Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz sat down with NSCAA Communications Manager Monique Bowman to discuss the growth of the Union Academy as well as the future of the club.
Sakiewicz was first asked about the beginnings of this Academy and highlighted that there is now a facility 20 miles west of PPL Park that houses the youth academy, as well as the YSC Academy, which is a high school for elite soccer players that was launched with partner Rich Graham.
One interesting thing he noted was concerning the realistic outcome that many of the players may not become professional athletes, but by staying in the Academy they will become good players and will be able to attend college and get an education that could be paid for.
Regarding how the Academy works, Sakiewicz highlighted that he took the best practices from around the world and used them to evolve the Academy "into a program made for the US." Also mentioned by Sakiewicz were the opportunities that surrounded the players at this Academy. Areas such as education, nutrition, and strength/conditioning are available to these players, but he said the players would have to act responsibly themselves to invest in these different components in order to enhance their overall development.
He did come out with a statistic that caught my attention, and it was when he was asked about the diversity of his program. Within the Academy, he stated that 37% of players were African American, 33% Caucasian, 18% Hispanic, and 12% Other. He said it produced an interesting style of play, and I am definitely curious to see what that is. However, I do agree with him that diversity is key, and in my opinion is definitely a step in the right direction.
Before the discussion ended, Bowman hit Sakiewicz with a Twitter question regarding the prospects of having an Academy program for women. The answer from him was that in the big picture, there would be one, and it wasn't a matter of "if" but "when."
Sakiewicz finished off the conversation by making it clear that success would not be created in a short period of time, but he envisions many Philadelphia Union first team players in the future coming from the Academy.
Patience, it appears, is the key word for Union fans to keep in mind when it comes to youth development.