Development Academy Showcase is a Prime Place for Scouting
Peter Kelley was in the right place at the right time. The U-15/16 Scott Gallagher forward was right where he was supposed to be for his team’s corner attempt. When no one could control the ball off the initial strike, Kelley found the ball at his feet directly in front of the net.
He turned, fired and blasted a left-footed shot by Albertson keeper Billy Wasserman to pull Scott Gallagher within a goal in their match at the Development Academy Summer Showcase in Greensboro, N.C. on Saturday.
“Usually when I score with my left foot I feel like it’s some sort of luck involved,” said Kelley. “I just try to put it on net.”
Luckier still, for Kelley, was the timing of the goal. Because while he was clapping and celebrating with his teammates, more than 15 coaches and scouts from major universities around the nation were scribbling in their notebooks.
Kelley said scoring to help his team wasn’t the most important factor, but it didn’t hurt that so many high-profile people were in attendance.
“It’s obviously going to look good when you score,” said Kelley. “I just want them to see that I can score at the college level.”
Coaches have flooded the Summer Showcase. They came from near and far; from here in North Carolina, to New England, the Midwest and even the West Coast.
With some of the best club teams in the country in Greensboro, the concentration of talent draws them in. It’s the chance to scout a large number of top players in one shot.
“You have all these teams here at one complex,” said Duke University head coach John Kerr. “It’s an awesome opportunity for us, and for the players.”
Because NCAA restrictions do not allow the coaches to reach out to the players, they become merely spectators, watching and analyzing, like many fans, with a notebook and pen constantly in hand.
Kerr said there are players in the Academy that have expressed interest in the school, and he and his staff are here to see how they play against top competition. But there are also players they’ve never heard of who might stand out from the crowd.
“We have players that we’re aware of and we’re looking for players to strike us,” said Kerr. “It’s always nice to find a diamond in the rough.”
While the location is perfect for Kerr and Duke – not having to leave the state on a recruiting trip is always a plus – the facility and talent helped draw Providence assistant coach David DeMello to North Carolina on a scouting trip.
“The facility is great because you can walk a couple of feet and see more great players,” DeMello said. “The experience is great for us and the kids. This is a definite stop for us because the level of play is the best.”
When the coaches start surrounding games, like they did in Greensboro Saturday afternoon, they certainly draw attention from parents and fans, as well as the players on the field. The pressure is certainly ratcheted up, as every pass, shot or save is being evaluated.
Wasserman tries to keep the attention from bothering him on the field, but he admits that it enters his mind when he makes a big save.
“At the time, you don’t try to think about it,” he said. “But after the (save), it’s good that they saw it.”
Wasserman said the pressure from the coaches watching the match actually affects him, but not in a negative way.
“It actually adds a better feel to the game,” he said. “It makes you excited, but you just gotta play your game.”
Michigan State associate head coach Damon Rensing said games like those at the Summer Showcase demonstrate to coaches how players can deal with the pressure and overcome it.
But he added that by now the players are not feeling the anxiety they may have experienced in the beginning of the season.
“By this time of year they’re used to seeing coaches around,” Rensing said. “They’re going to have much more pressure in college.”
That was true for Kelley, who said he struggled to manage the stress when coaches first started coming to his games. He didn’t play his game, and his performances suffered.
“I was just thinking, ‘don’t mess up,’” Kelley said. “But when I play like that, I end up doing worse.”
Kelley didn’t mess up this time, netting a goal in his team’s 4-3 loss, making this game seem like just another normal game.
Well, the games might be normal, but the same can’t be said for the atmoshphere.
“I wouldn’t say it was normal,” Albertson center midfielder Zach Kupfer said. “You couldn’t walk five or 10 feet without seeing a college coach.”