Sounders Discovery Program plays critical role in future academy success

SDP Coaches 150227

2014-15 marks the inaugural season of the Sounders Discovery Program, which invites the best local players to train once a week in the Sounders FC Academy environment. The program promotes competition amongst the best and most ambitious youth players in the 2001-2002 age groups, giving staff and coaches the opportunity to identify future Academy members. We sat down with Sounders FC Academy Technical Director Marc Nicholls to discuss the Academy’s newest addition.

The Academy just added a full time U-14 squad, so why the addition of the SDP program?

It was essential for us to add a full time U-14 program to our Academy. It’s important to get these players in early at such a critical stage in their development. We decided to add the younger element of SDP in an effort to get players exposed to our Academy system as soon as possible. We want them to become familiar with the Academy’s technical and tactical philosophies.

What is the purpose of SDP?

SDP works in cooperation with local club coaches and directors. These relationships are critical to the Academy’s success. It means that we are able to evaluate players over an extended period of time, so once they become eligible to play for the Academy we will have confidence in our final squad selections. 

What should the players expect to gain from the program?

SDP gives players an early taste of a true Academy training environment and enables the players to compete with the best players in their age group. We hope that these players are able to improve through these training sessions and can take what they learn back to their club teams.

How has the Program gone thus far?

It has gone very well. We have had some excellent feedback. Brayton Knapp and Shannon Murray have demonstrated great organizational leadership with the program. The players come in each Monday ready to work and are getting more comfortable with the coaches, players and training in a new environment. The players receive the same training sessions as our Academy teams and we have been impressed with the talent level. There are clearly some very good clubs out there!

What does a typical Monday session look like?

We adapt the philosophy of learning through the game. After some individual technical work the players then engage in a discovery game. Before evolving into free play we also implement some detailed passing/receiving exercises. Occasionally we play technical games, especially if the players have had a heavy weekend of matches.

In the summer you were able to train during the First Team’s session, enabling participants to play less than a hundred yards from their professional heroes. Can you describe the impact of this experience on the impressionable youth?

We are fortunate for the First Team’s cooperation on this. It’s important for these young players to witness the vertical progression of the club and feel integrated in the club culture at an early stage of their development. It’s a tremendous motivating factor for the boys to look over and see Clint Dempsey and Oba Martins on the next field!

How does a player get invited to participate in this selective program?

It is done mainly through us identifying the players. We have spent lots of time watching local games and I recently traveled to Arizona to watch the Washington State EPD (Elite Player Development) program compete. We are beginning to develop a network of coaches in the community that we also work with.

Who are the coaches in the SDP program?

We are all involved, all Academy staff. We even had our GM Garth Lagerwey out there this week. Garth was very impressed with the young players.

To learn more about the Sounders Discovery Program, visit Academy Tryouts.



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