Philadelphia Union YSC Academy: Passion for Learning

Jun 16, 2015; Philadelphia , PA, USA; Philadelphia Union Academy U-18 and U-16 scrimmage outside PPL Park before a U.S. Open Cup match between the Philadelphia Union and Rochester Rhinos. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2015; Philadelphia , PA, USA; Philadelphia Union Academy U-18 and U-16 scrimmage outside PPL Park before a U.S. Open Cup match between the Philadelphia Union and Rochester Rhinos. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Many clubs around Major League Soccer have been working to build a system in which to evaluate young players from the surrounding areas and further develop their brand within that city.

When I stepped foot into the Philadelphia Union’s YSC Academy, it became evidently clear to me that this institution had a much broader focus than simply the development of professional soccer talent.

The first thing to catch my eye were three words printed on the wall: “Passion for Learning”. The motto instilled and proclaimed to all students who enter this academy was resonant in observing young men working on homework in the lobby with a World Cup qualifying match on a large projector screen.

Personally, I don’t know how anyone could focus on math or science when a thrilling soccer game is on television. But these boys were unmoved in their determination to stay the course put forward by the instructors and leaders at the YSC Academy.

A progressively designed complex in Wayne, PA is the school, training facility, social environment and home to some of the brightest individuals looking to elevate their game on the field and develop their mind in the classroom. At a quick glance, there was little to gather just how effective this synergistic structure of athletics and academics truly was for these boys.

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But one thing was certainly clear; the environment within the walls of this facility is welcoming and centered around the idea of creating a club and simply not just a team.

In speaking with YSC’s Head of School Nooha Ahmed-Lee, I learned that the level of respect and appreciation given to these young men is immense compared to that of a regular schooling environment. Participants in the academy’s programs are encouraged to be curious, self-motivated and not afraid to fail in any aspect of their lives.

It’s the trust given to the boys at YSC that allow them to become self-directing in numerous facets of growing up which ultimately helps flourish the character that Philadelphia Union staff members and scouts look for in first team players. Tommy Wilson, Director of the Union Academy, also noted that the little amount of pressure put on students from their administrators and teachers creates a working environment unlike any he’s seen in his 20+ years of work in the development of young future stars

"“To be able to affect the culture in which they learn is probably the most significant aspect of what we do here.” Wilson said, “I’ve been really fortunate in my career to have had the opportunity to travel around the world and look at the top academies and many have claimed to have a school or education base. I haven’t seen one like this. In my opinion this is up there with the best, if not the best.”"

The Philadelphia Union have truly set themselves up for success in the assessment and analysis of talented prospects in the northeast region. The boys enjoy their time at the academy, the parents are thrilled with the academic progress of their children and the coaches have seen immediate results from the fruits of YSC’s labor in the form of homegrown professional signings Derrick Jones and Auston Trusty this past season under head coach Jim Curtin.

"“They [Jones and Trusty] are now fully with the first team and they more than hold their own.” Curtin mentioned about the two young academy graduates. “Again that speaks to YSC Academy preparing them here off the field, the academy coaching staff preparing them on the field so that their transition was a seamless one… They’re two guys in the earliest stages now that have shown they more than belong and the idea for them is to push for minutes next year.”"

While the success of these boys is directly beneficial to the Union organization, the ultimate goal of the leadership at YSC is to create well-rounded individuals that not only excel domestically but at the international level as well. Former U.S. Men’s National player and current Sporting Director for the Union, Earnie Stewart, remains confident that the model set forward for these young men to succeed and rise up through the ranks of the Union academy program will allow for the game in the United States to grow as a whole.

With the limited number of “heroes” in the American market for professional soccer, it is up to the tireless efforts of the academy staff to not simply promote the importance of making an impact here in Philadelphia but to instill a sense of responsibility to make the United States a global powerhouse for years to come.

Next: Academy Members and Alumni Prepare for NCAA Tournament

These boys at YSC Academy are among the most gifted players in the area who possess the mindset to develop under the leadership of brilliant instructors and trainers. They understand that their goals should not solely be set on their soccer dreams but in their advancement as human beings that can contribute to society long after they stop kicking a ball. But most importantly, they have a passion for learning, and that’s what will holistically set this academy apart from all others both across the United States and around the world.