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Texas SC Learns From First Development Academy Showcase Experience

LANCASTER, Calif. (Dec. 6, 2008) – Texas SC U-15/16 forward Mario Diaz watched his teammates play FIFA 2009 in the Athlete’s Lounge at the 2008 Development Academy Winter Showcase. Diaz had played his first showcase game at 10 a.m., and was soaking in the experience participating in an Academy Showcase for the first time.

“I think it’s really cool,” said Diaz, who joined Texas SC specifically to be able to play in the Development Academy. “I like that we get to travel to different places. I had never been to California before. This is my first time.

“I was looking forward to the games and I’ve been told that we’re being looked at by college coaches, so I want to be good and try to get a scholarship.”

Texas SC joined the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for the 2008-09 season, along with 11 other clubs. As they get used to the travel and quality of competition, the U-15/16 Texans opened their showcase experience with a 1-0 loss to Washington Premier. The older team played immediately after, winning 3-0 against Washington Premier.

“It’s been so beneficial for the players and also for the coaches,” said Texas SC U-15/16 head coach Scott James. “We struggled a bit with the travel and playing this morning, so maybe it’s a learning process for us to get in a bit earlier.

“The experience of traveling, sleeping in a strange bed, playing in quality game after game, it’s new to them. Before, they would only do that if they made a national final or a regional final, and now we’re regularly getting the quality games. It’s only going to help the players in the long run.”

Those new experiences aren’t limited to the new travel schedule. The games themselves have also changed in intensity, despite playing fewer games throughout the year.

“Their preparation is something that I can see has improved tremendously,” said Texas SC U-17/18 head coach Scott Dymond, who points out such things as the no re-entry rule and only playing one game a day as being extremely beneficial to the players. “I think they’re better players already because of it.

“This is a program that is for the players, to better the players. I think in other areas, it’s not necessarily geared towards what’s best for the players. Our kids now, they put so much effort into one game, they couldn’t turn around and play a second game like they normally would in these other tournaments. It’s great to be with the best clubs in the nation.”

As a member of the Development Academy, the Texans have seen a marked increase in the level of competition, as well as the level of exposure to college coaches and coaches from the U.S. Soccer National Scouting Network.

According to said Texas SC president Chuck Vallentine, the quality of the Academy is such that one of the first questions college coaches ask the athletes when recruiting is whether they play for an Academy club. The athletes also realize that the dedication and professionalism provided by the Academy will be beneficial when trying to improve.

“I came for the Academy,” said U-17/18 Texas SC defender Blake Shannon, who joined the club at the beginning of the 2008-09 season for the exposure to U.S. National Team scouts, the quality of the competition and the overall environment. “They take things more seriously, it’s more competitive and the players want to be here. They want to play and try to make it to the next level. It’s big time. These are the best of the best teams, and you only get better when you play against the best.”

As for Diaz, he recovered from his team’s 1-0 loss in the morning with a 5-0 FIFA 2009 win in the Athlete’s Lounge.

“This is one of my favorite parts, too,” he said, laughing and pointing at the televisions.

Texas SC continues their Development Academy experience on Saturday, Dec. 6, against the Concorde Fire. The Under-15/16 team takes the field at 11 a.m. PT, followed immediately by the Under-17/18 match at 1 p.m. PT.