Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bravo! Mr. Hume

I feel great this morning. I have my Starbucks in hand and am watching the FA Cup Final between Everton (and the US National Team Keeper, Tim Howard) and Chelsea. I am also watching my wife power wash the back patio in preparation for family coming in next weekend for my #1 son's high school graduation. Better her than me. I have mulching duty later on.

Not going to blog about soccer this morning. Instead I want to say "Bravo!" to Mr. Hume, an inspirational teacher of Journalism, English and most importantly, the advisor for the Lakota East Spark News Magazine. (Lakota East High School, West Chester/Liberty Township, Ohio)
Last night was the end of the school year banquet for the Spark student staff. Over 200 people attended this celebration. Mr. Hume has been the advisor for this news magazine for 15+ years, but make no mistake, this news magazine is student run. He encourages these young people to challenge convention, themselves and each other. And the result is a "not your typical" high school newspaper. These students have produced a product worthy of sitting on any newsstand! They have addressed issues of sexuality, drugs and school labor negotiations.
The Spark is a celebration of our 1st amendment rights, at a public high school smack dab in the middle of the conservative Midwest. Would any of your school's administrators allow a one of their school's publications to publish an op-ed on the legalization of marijuana? Just one of the hard-hitting and controversial topics that are addressed in The Spark.
So what are the results? Best of show 5 of the last 9 years at the JEA/NSPA (Journalism Educational Association) Annual Fall convention. 4 gold medal JEA write-off winners. Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Crown and Highest Issue Critique award. And Finally a 15 time winner of the All-Ohio award given by the Ohio Scholastic Media Association.
The graduating staffers who are choosing to continue their studies in Journalism are going to some of the best J-schools in the country. Ohio University, Northwestern etc.
What made last night's banquet so special was Mr. Hume's personal and inspirational speech about each and every one of the Spark's student staff. He took the time to say something impactful about every single staff member (over 100 by the way). The parents were able to hear how Mr. Hume felt about their children, their skills and capabilities. His comments were inspirational, emotional and heartwarming!
My son had the opportunity to make the closing remarks on the evening. I think that he put it best when he said of Mr. Hume that his Journalism class and the Spark were the reasons he went to school. I couldn't have put it any better.
Bravo! Mr. Hume.
Signing off........Jiresell

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

US Soccer Development Academy Spring Showcase Observations

This past Memorial Day weekend I was able to go to the US Soccer Development Academy Spring Showcase held in Sarasota, Florida. Some observations:

-I don't think I have seen better coverage of a Development Academy Event, or any other youth soccer event. US Soccer had a huge amount of coverage, as did Also several people were using Twitter to post highlights. (follow USSoccer, DallasCup, Topdrawersoccer and Ohioelite for regular updates amongst many interesting Tweeters) I Twittered the play by play of the Ohio Elite Soccer Academy matches for the benefit of the parents who weren't able to attend.

-I am impressed with the way many clubs travel to these events. Ohio Elite, for example, books all the travel for their teams. They boys, coaches and chaperone's fly together with a very specific and coordinated itinerary. Everyone eats together, stays at the same hotel and travels to the fields together. Very professional approach, but in addition the boys were able to go to the beach on their day off and the movies one of the evenings. As a parent I really like this approach, and I understand many of the other clubs travel the same way.

-The exposure these young men had to the US National Staff, college coaches and scouts from professional clubs was unbelievable. Every game had a US National Staff coach observing it. And after each game the US Coaches spent a great deal of time with the club coaches reviewing the match. I personally counted 19 college coaches at our U16's first match versus PDA out of New Jersey.

-All of the boys went through a Nike Sparq Training session. They were tested again and received their results so they could compare them with the testing they went through at the Winter Showcase in December.

-US Soccer also had two matches where a team of Development Academy Players were chosen to play against the U17 National staff. In addition, the U20 National Team played Costa Rican National Team. These matches were free to everyone to watch.

-Lastly, I have to admit I had a pretty good time in the Tampa/Sarasota area. Two other fathers and I made the 14 hour drive from Cincinnati and rented a condo at Indian Rocks Beach. Went to Ybor City one evening, ate at PJ's in Indian Rocks beach three times (might seem extreme, but the seafood was great, and they had Landshark Lager on tap). We also ate dinner at Crabby Bill's in Indian Rocks beach and made good friends with some folks from Bristol, England who had been at the bar since 11am that morning having watched the last of the EPL matches of the season. I am amazed at their stamina!

As I have blogged before, if you have an opportunity to tryout for a Development Academy team in your area, do so!

Signing out........Jiresell

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Big Weekend in Southern Ohio Youth Soccer

This past weekend was a big one in Southern Ohio youth Soccer. The Ohio South Youth Soccer State Cup Championships took place. Congratulations to all the winners!

It was also a big weekend for the US Soccer Development Academy teams in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Ohio Elite Soccer Academy's U16 and U18 teams played the Solar SC and the Dallas Texans Development Academy Teams. I continue to be impressed with the high quality of play, the pace and ultimately the level of competition that the US Soccer Development Academy provides for the young men who have an opportunity to participate.

With the State Cup Champions being decided, the season closes down for most of the local youth soccer teams. The Development Academy Teams have a big Memorial Day weekend coming up, the Spring Showcase in Sarasota, Florida. I went to the Winter Showcase this past December in Lancaster, California and was very impressed with the event. The Spring Showcase promises to be bigger. More US National Staff present than any previous event, more college coaches, and every Academy Team in the country will be participating. National youth team friendlies will also be taking place. I will be traveling down with a couple of other folks to watch the matches and root on the Ohio Elite Soccer Academy teams who will be playing three matches over the four day event.

Tryouts for the local clubs in Southern Ohio are also upon us. It is always an interesting time of the year as rumors to begin to fly around the soccer community. The most interesting thing to me is that most of these rumors are proven to be inaccurate, and are usually perpetuated by individuals with motives beyond the individual development of the players themselves.

My point? Players and parents should look for the clubs/teams that give the players the best chance to develop to be the best soccer players they can be. Also look for club/teams who have a track record of getting their players recruited and signed to the next level (College, etc.). Clubs and coaches should encourage their players to tryout for teams that will provide them opportunities to push themselves, get out of their comfort zone and play the best competition, even if it means losing some players to other clubs/teams. (No one would deny their players a call-up to National or Regional pools, would they?)

My shameless plug: Tryout for the US Soccer Development Team in your area if you are of age. (U16: calendar year 1993 or younger, U18: calendar year 1991 or younger) In Southern Ohio there are two clubs to look to, The Ohio Elite Soccer Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio, or the Columbus Crew in Columbus, Ohio. Based on the investment US Soccer has made in the program, the amount of clubs who apply each year to join (this year 250 applied to join, and 6 new clubs were added to bring the total to 79 in the program) and the staff support (this year National staff coaches have been present at at least 10 Ohio Elite matches) the opportunity to play in the US Soccer Development Academy is the best way to develop as a player and prepare for a soccer career beyond the youth ranks.

Signing off.......Jiresell

Three Philosophies To Live By

I have been thinking about life lately.

I think I have come up with the three philosophies that sum up my views on life, how the world turns etc. Time to share:

1) "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Known as the ethic of reciprocity, or more commonly known as the Golden Rule. Tough to live by in practice (and I admire those that live by this daily), but wouldn't the world be a better place if everyone practiced this philosophy?

2) Survival of the fittest. This may seem a bit in conflict with philosophy #1, (for me #1 applies to basic human needs and rights) but I actually believe in this as it pertains to the economy, the environment etc. I don't think we should put artificial policies in place to "prop up" businesses or economies that are on the brink of failure. Let the markets sort things out, which leads me to:

3) The law of supply and demand. Capitalism at it's best. Prices change based on this fundamental economic law. Businesses succeed when they understand this. Innovation and ideas get generated when someone recognizes a need in the marketplace. I believe you can tie this to philosophy #1-if there is a fundamental basic human need (ex. disease to cure, human condition problem to solve), individuals or organizations will and should find a way to fill that need.

Just some thoughts....what do you think?

Signing off.........Jiresell

Monday, May 4, 2009

My #2 Son's Year in Soccer-US Soccer Development Academy

My #2 son has had a great opportunity this year. He is fortunate enough to have tried out and made one of US Soccer's Development Academy Teams. We live in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and my son plays for the U16 (birthdates in 1992 or younger) Ohio Elite Soccer Academy Team based here.

US Soccer started the Development Academy in 2007 to focus on player development. They have very strict specifications that participating clubs have to adhere to, training a minimum 3 days per week, a minimum of one weekend off per month, no more than two games in two days etc. It seems as though US soccer is really looking to have a very high training hours/game hours ratio.

It has been an interesting year. My son's team has travelled to Houston, Los Angeles, and Detroit so far this year. They will be travelling to Sarasota for a National showcase Memorial Day weekend. The quality of soccer is unbelievable, and by all accounts my son's team is playing the best competition available in the United States. If you are familiar with youth soccer, then the names will be familiar to you-Vardar (Michigan), Derby County (Michigan) Wolves, Carmel United (Indiana), The Columbus Crew, CASL (NC), Richmond VA Strikers, Solar (Texas), Scott Gallagher (St. Louis) etc. Oh, and the players on these teams are the best their regions and clubs offer!

So why am I writing about this? Well, when you play the best competition, sometimes results on the field are hard to come by. The boys have a win and a draw so far this year, with some games that we should have won, and many losses mixed in. That can be tough, especially on the parent.

My son's teams have participated in the traditional youth soccer leagues (Midwest Regional League, local leagues) and high level tournaments, including State Cup in the past. They have played many of the team's mentioned above in those games, certainly with better results on the field than they are having now.

But here's the thing: My son is having a great time in the Development Academy! He is playing at a very high level of competition. He is getting visibility to college coaches not only at the showcases, but at regular season games. In addition, US National staff coaches regularly attend games and training sessions. He wouldn't trade it for any other opportunities.

So the moral of this story. My son is developing into a better player. He is having fun. And he is getting more opportunities in soccer by playing in The US Soccer Development Academy than he would anywhere else.

By the way, don't just take it from me, ask him!

Signing off......Jiresell