By Jim Tober
The Elite Soccer Academy Niagara U13 Boys brought home Gold from the Elite Challenge Cup in Erie, Pennsylvania. The Academy racked up a 3-0 record, beating the Cleveland Internationals (Ohio Cup Champions), Fort Wayne United (Indiana State Champions) and the host team, Erie Admirals. Along the way, the team recorded two clean sheets, scored 12 and conceded only two goals in the tournament. The tournament win put an exclamation point on a very strong first season of operation for the Academy.
The Elite Soccer Academy program is second to none in terms of quality and quantity of training and it exposes players to the best possible opportunities. As Founder and Technical Director Clayton Rosario put it, “Our program is only for dedicated full-time soccer players who want to take their game to the highest level possible.”
Under the guidance of Clayton Rosario, Head Coach Tuukka Salonen leads player development and coaching. Tuukka played professionally in Germany and Finland for 10 years, taking the field against the likes of young German internationals including Mezit Ozil (Arsenal), and Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), as well as the Brazilian Rafinha (Bayern Munich) and the Altintop brothers.
After a career-ending injury, Salonen received formal training in fitness, strength and agility with Schalke 04. The Academy also brings in professional coaches with international experience including a four month visit this past summer with a club coach from Empoli FC. With this mix of professional education and playing experience, Elite Academy players receive training and gain experience that is unavailable elsewhere.
Elite Academy players have access to train in a private facility, which is quickly becoming the Training Centre of Excellence in Niagara, as well as quick access to the best facilities in Ontario and Western New York, from Batavia to Niagara to the Greater Toronto Area.
Players are immersed in a positive but intense environment with like-minded teammates. The priorities of the professional coaches are to ensure that each player in the program develops to their full potential. Coaches do not be place unreasonable pressure on players to win games and collect trophies and instead they challenge them to identify and develop their weaknesses and grow as individuals and as athletes. Guided Discovery is a foundation of the Academy’s coaching philosophy.
The full-time program runs 11 months out of the year. It aims for players to have at least 130 training sessions and 30 to 40 games per year. This is achieved through summer and winter leagues, tournaments, futsal leagues and friendlies. Having their own private training facility also means the Elite Academy players have a place for free play year round, no matter what the weather.
Futsal is seen as a key development tool. The team played in the Niagara Futsal Cup hosted by the Canadian Futsal Federation this past September. The team had the once in a lifetime opportunity to compete against the Canadian National U14 Futsal Team and the Brazilian National U14 Futsal Team, which featured the son of Brazilian and World Soccer legend Ronaldo.
Elite Academy is especially proud of their formal Fitness & Skills Testing Program. Players are tested regularly for fitness levels and technical skills. Results are measured, evaluated and discussed with the players and goals and targets are set for players. This is an integral part of player development at Elite.
For 2014, the Academy will be registered with US Soccer through the Buffalo Soccer Academy, which means greater exposure for the players, which allows them to compete anywhere in Canada and the US, including State Cup and Regional competitions.
For more information on the Academy please call Clayton Rosario at 289-214-1414 and follow the team on the web at www.elitesocceracademyniagara.blogspot.ca.