Many people talk about the Pay to Play system that limits the development of soccer talent here in the United States. Michael Cantrell and his good friend Taylor Pilkington, Co-Owners of Soccer Genome in Raleigh, NC decided to take action and address this.
They established The Genome Foundation. Their foundation recognizes that there are many talented players who can not afford to pay for supplemental training. Michael and Taylor wanted to ensure that the players who attend Soccer Genome, their soccer and futsal training facility are not turned away for lack of funds so they created their Genome foundation
Michael was good enough to answer some questions for me. I am sharing his responses below.
Do you feel that soccer has grown in the Raleigh area faster than some other parts of the US? If so, why?
Growing up in Raleigh, I always felt like soccer was THE sport to play. It seems like this area has always been a hotbed for great soccer athletes. I think a ton of that has to do with our college programs in the area. CASL (Capital Area Soccer League) was one of the top clubs in the nation and produced some amazing talent. When I was growing up, CASL was feared not just by our local rivals but by those all over the nation as well.
As far as growth goes, I think we have slowed down a bit. This may be due to the consolidation in the youth game and the push from other states to continue to excel. NC has a real need for higher level professional soccer. Once that pops up, I think we'll see another period of major growth in the NC soccer community.
Many clubs and groups do not encourage males and females playing together. Soccer Genome does. Have you considered separating the sexes?
I love working with both guys and girls. They train differently and provide opportunities to better each other.
In your estimate, is there a difference in the way males and females should be trained?
I think boys can learn a lot from the ladies. Same thing goes in the opposite direction. We at SG love having both girls and guys train together in order for them both to see a different style of play than they are used to.
Girls are very unselfish and tend to let the ball do a ton of the work while guys more often want to shine as individuals and take players on. By training together, the athletes can take the best of both and learn new things and learn how to counter different styles of play.
Because of those difference we train in different ways. As coaches, we have to manage how personalities can differ. This is less of a gender issue and more a personal one. The best coaches in the world know how each individual student reacts to encouragement or criticism and we push our students differently to ensure they are trained effectively.
You allow college players to train at no charge over the summer. This is not only wonderful for them, but it gives the high school players an invaluable experience as well. What made you choose to do this?
College athletes have a huge issue in the summer months. Although leagues like the PDL have helped solve this problem, Soccer Genome also wanted to provide an outlet for those students to continue to get high quality time on the field. We love having former students and their friends come out and play with the younger crew. This also teaches our high schoolers what college soccer can look like. The college players provide a more mature way of seeing the game and allow our high schoolers a glimpse into what it takes to get to a higher level of play. It also provides our coaches a more competitive environment. This not only allows the coaches to hone our own skills but shows also serves to show those college kids that they can still learn a ton about the game, even when up against older players.
Your facility utilizes a smaller field. I also saw references to your programs and futsal. What benefits do you feel futsal provides that soccer does not? In your estimate, do strong skills at futsal translate to soccer and vice versa?
When I was in college, I stopped playing soccer for a year. After itching to get back, I began playing pick up and club soccer at UNC. Most of my time was spent on small fields with way too many players on the pitch. This forced me to constantly be evaluating my surroundings and to make quicker and quicker decisions when I received the ball.
After a few yeas of this, I began to see increased growth in my own game. At that time, Soccer Genome was just starting and I wanted to provide our students with a similar environment. A smaller field forces players to think more quickly when they are off the ball. We began on a smaller pitch partially out of necessity, but quickly realized that we could decrease the number of players in each group and increase the number of coaches in comparison to the competition.
This allowed our students more attention from the coaches and increased the number of touches they were getting on the ball. Now we've purposefully chosen the small pitch and futsal because the tight space forces our students to think more quickly and allows them more touches on the ball. This can help improve our students more rapidly and we think this style is more fun for everybody. In comparison to regular indoor soccer, futsal is more game like and does not allow students to just kick the ball off a wall. Players are forced to make more game like decisions and when they are thinking too slowly they are punished for it rather than rewarded.
At the end of the day, these types of environments push student's technical abilities along with their understanding of their surroundings and their decision making. We feel this is the best way for young athletes to develop into intelligent soccer players.
You can contact Soccer Genome at firstname.lastname@example.org
9101 Durant Road
Raleigh, NC 27616
1839 S. Main St.
Wake Forest, NC 27587
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