By Jill Fox
Outside of the recreational season, there aren’t many options for soccer players to hone their skills. One South Florida family has created an academy specially designed for those players offering a skill development program in the spring.
In addition to managing the Parkland Soccer Club, Laurie and Roger Thomas own Soccer Academy and Training at Pine Trails Park. The husband and wife team wanted to build the club so they could be recognized, not only in Parkland, but statewide for being able to develop great soccer players.
“Our goal was to keep the talent in the city by developing the players,” said Laurie, who lives with her husband in Coconut Creek and has spent over 15 years in Parkland trying to build the soccer program.
Laurie said the spring sessions are really good for kids coming from recreational soccer and thinking about trying out for a travel team. When the season ends, there really isn’t anything else soccer-wise in the city for the players to work on their skills for tryouts in May. The program is structured into four 60-minute classes, once a week, including three skill development sessions and one tournament night at a cost of $80.
With a focus on the foundational years, Laurie said her husband, Roger is spectacular at teaching players when they’re young and gives them the tools to be able to grow, develop and make these teams. Since their days playing soccer at Florida International University and earning their National A coaching licenses, a dozen of their players have gone on to make major league soccer youth academy teams, including their two children Kobi, 13, and Kai, 16, who play for the New York City Football Club.
“Some of the kids that we started with actually have kids now,” said Laurie, who explained that the number of their players that have gone on to the Florida Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program and other major league soccer youth academy teams is a good indicator that the coaches and the club are heading in the right direction for player development.
Participants work with a team of highly trained and professional instructors to develop the key skills required to be successful. However, the academy is not just about soccer, they also a focus on developing players’ character and values. In 2018, when one of their players, Alyssa Alhadeff, was killed in the Parkland shooting, the team had these life skills to fall back on.
“In hindsight, it was great that we gave them these character building skills,” said Laurie.
The academy provides a training environment for players regardless of which club, school or team they play for, with different techniques like foot skills, ball control, basic team concepts and various technical topics offered to them. They have programs for introductory level players – those looking for extra training or anything in between.