Development Academy Q&A: Quavas Kirk
The Development Academy Program didn’t exist when Quavas Kirk was playing with the Chicago Magic. “I wish it was,” says Kirk. The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder knows the Academy environment – such as meaningful training and quality matches – is modeled after U.S. Soccer Residency Program, which he was involved in for two years, and was a huge help in him jumping to the pros at such a young age.
Ussoccer.com talked with Kirk about how he thinks the Development Academy will help improve player development.
As you know, the idea of the DAP is for it to be similar to Residency. You’ve been through that type of system, how did that type of environment help you grow as a player?
Quavas Kirk: “Residency was always a tough environment, which looking back was great because it really helped you improve. You had to play your best all the time or else someone was going to take your spot. That kind of environment really makes your work day in and day out, which you need to go through to prepare for life as a professional player. Having a Bradenton-like experience at the club level will be really helpful for younger players because it will allow them to get better quicker and find out what it takes to play at a high level. I remember going into Residency and playing MLS teams and other national teams, which was great because you really had to push yourself to succeed at that level. You just get better and better the more you’re in that environment.”
Kids love to play games more than they enjoy training, but how does the idea of training more than playing matches help you develop as a player?
QK: “In Residency we trained every day and it was always against some of the top players at your age level in the country. Every day was a chance to compete for a spot. I was never complacent because I knew if I didn’t train well, I would lose my spot to someone else. Training every day also allows you to improve as a player because you can work on aspects of your game that you need help with. The coaches we had were always able to help us improve.”
How will consistently playing against top teams help players develop?
QK: “Having to play against all the top players and teams is great. It’s the best atmosphere you can have because it’s only going to help you down the road. Whether you win or lose, it’s not really a big deal. In Residency, we lost plenty of games against MLS clubs or other teams, but playing against great teams will only make you great. Playing against teams as good as you or better is going to get you ready for any challenge that you run into. It definitely helps you prepare.”
What do you think will set the Academy teams apart from other club teams throughout the country?
QK: “I think with the Academy including some of the top teams in the nation, the players on those clubs will be exposed to a level unlike anything else in the country. Playing against top level teams will be a challenge every time and having the type of training regimen set will also help them improve. They will be at a higher level. They will be good, ready to play anyone.”
How do you think the expanded program will help the national teams in the future?
QK: “I think it’s great. Putting these kids against top clubs non stop all over the nation will make for some great competition for spots on the national teams. I really think that the national teams will have their work cut out for them against some of these youth teams. The best part is that the Academy will create an environment where kids are going to seen more by our national team coaches. There will be that much more competition for spots. Before it was a battle with 20 to 40 kids in Residency, but now it will be a battle against every kid in the country. That will definitely help the national teams get better.”
Where do you think you’d be today if you hadn’t had the opportunity to go to Bradenton?
QK: “Good question…(pause)…I’m trying to figure that one out (laughs). I’m not sure, hopefully I’d be in college. I can say for certain that having the chance to be in an environment like Bradenton got me to where I am now, and I wouldn’t be there without it. It helped me out and put me in a professional environment. It allowed me to play in a high level and I’m thankful for having that opportunity. It would have been great to have that environment at the club level like these kids have now!”
The Chicago Magic are a member of the DAP, were you glad to see your club join?
QK: “Of course. My club means a lot to me so it’s great to see that they’re involved with this program. When I moved from Pennsylvania as a kid to Chicago, I didn’t know where to go. I finally tried out for the Magic and from start to finish it was great. I got the chance to play at the top levels and we had a great team. Overall, it was really good for me and I think the kids in the club now are going to even have a better experience.”
Talk a little bit about the CM, how did the club prepare you for Bradenton and a professional career in soccer?
QK: “I had some great coaches. My regional coach was also my head coach for Magic, so he always pushed me. Another coach I had when I played up a grade was a national pool coach, so he definitely taught me a lot. I think having great coaching like that is helpful, because it pushes you to do right thing. My coaches were tough, but it was really good to have them around. Also, there were always top players coming in and you had to fight for your spot.”