Youth Development Kick Into Gear

The youth development program being initiated by MLS Seattle and Washington State Youth Soccer is under way, and director Darren Sawatzky weighs in with the latest.

The wheels are in motion for the youth development program being initiated by MLS Seattle and Washington State Youth Soccer, and director Darren Sawatzky weighs in with the latest.

This is an exciting time for soccer in this country, both at the youth and professional level, and the opportunity to become Youth Development Director is exciting for me as well.

It’s a unique program in that I was hired by both Adrian Hanauer and Washington State Youth Soccer. I have had a good relationship with Doug Andreassen, the WSYSA president, and I’ve gotten to know Adrian while playing for the Sounders and then joining the coaching staff before last season.

MLS teams are required to have a youth component, and I have talked a lot with Adrian about youth soccer in Washington. As the MLS Seattle team became a reality, this opportunity also began surfacing here in Seattle. Doug and Adrian talked to me about what my interest would be at many levels, and not long ago we all agreed on what this program would look like, including the role of director.

I am now working hard on the camp system and the other pieces for the youth portion of the MLS Seattle team.

The Summer Soccer Camps are the first part of the job that needed to be set up. We have the schedule booked and will be working to get it online this week for registration. Amy Carnell has helped me get the camps ready and we will work hard this summer to be a great asset as we have been in the past and also be looking to make our camps the best in the business.

The other parts of the youth development system relate to advanced training to develop players for the highest level of soccer. We have a framework that is getting more advanced each day as we want to develop the best youth system in MLS and beyond. We want to work with the great existing development systems here in Washington state and work with the local soccer community as there are many great coaches and people here working to advance the game.

What comes to mind here is our need to reach the diverse populations of players in this country. There are young athletes that do not necessarily get an opportunity based on other parts of their personal lives or cultural background. The MLS team will have resources to try and identify all players regardless of where they play the game and give these players opportunities that may not have been there before. 

It’s our intention to meet with everyone in the soccer community who will in some way be connected to this youth development program. There are some very good coaches and coaching directors out there doing an excellent job of developing players, and they provide some very valuable knowledge in terms of Washington State youth soccer. It is important to tap this resource and work with everyone for the best development program for kids in Washington. We want to work with them for the benefit of the kids. 

I look forward to getting in the office every day and working hard to get all the pieces in place. Chris Henderson and Adrian are very professional people that run a very professional office. The vibe here is exciting and the energy is high because everyone is anticipating the year culminating in a new MLS team here. Definitely, these are some exciting times here in Seattle!