My inbox is full of questions. I can typically sort the questions under 4 categories.
Which club, league, school is best for my player?
Have you heard of this trainer, camp, club, experience etc… and is it a “money grab”?
Can you help us find… guest players? …teams for our tournament?
All of the questions about player pathways and specifically Columbus Crew
I honestly can’t answer half of the questions I’m sent. I just provide some links and connect players and coaches where I can. But, I wanted to get to the bottom of the player pathway questions so I sat down with Crew’s Robert Spain and Tim McCarthy after an amazing tour of the new Crew Training Center at the Historic Crew Stadium we chatted about all things youth soccer.
Investing in Ohio Soccer
The one thing that struck me the most was the investments being made into soccer right here in Central Ohio. “There certainly has been a very high level of investment in youth soccer, academy and Crew2 under our new ownership” shared Tim McCarthy.
After the disbanding of “Crew Player Development” and the initial intention of the team being sold and moved by previous ownership left a lot of uncertainty. The future of not only professional soccer in Columbus but also player pathways and professional player development was uncertain.
Enter our new ownership and a renewed commitment to player development and investing in Ohio soccer. Under the leadership of Dr. Edwards and the Haslam Family extensive investments have been made specifically in Central Ohio but throughout Ohio as a whole.
In the time since ownership has changed Crew has installed 5 mini-pitches across Columbus with 1-2 planned each year going forward. This is in partnership with US Soccer Foundation which also funds free programming for the communities surrounding the courts.
To me this is the most exciting initiative in the works. Crew Youth includes The Crew Network which comprises various youth soccer organizations in the Ohio region. Players, coaches, parents and administrators have access to unique experiences and opportunities. There are currently 15 clubs involved across the region made up of over 11,000 players with plans to grow. The best part is the clubs cover nearly all of Ohio and they are not all your top of the mind clubs. Many members of The Crew Network are our very own OSMD insiders and the benefits to players include Crew run camps, clinics and training programs where players and coaches are interacting with current academy players and meeting and interacting with Crew 2 and first team players and staff.
Just this week The Crew Network players had the opportunity to participate in the newly formed, Beta version of Crew Futures. Players received an hour of training inside Historic Crew Stadium. Training was conducted by Crew Youth coaching staff and Crew Legend Dante Washington was even on hand for coaching support and took the time to chat with players and pose for some pictures. Players will continue in this training program each Friday for the next 3 weeks.
Free to participating players, Crew Academy is a part of the player development pathway for U13-U19 Boys. Crew Academy includes an extensive team of full-time staff committed to individual player development for players performing at the highest level for their age. Players train at OHPC, have access to full-time coaching and performance staff and nutritional resources including dinner each evening.
Academy teams participate in MLS Next for competitive league play as well as Generation Adidas.
New this year, Columbus Crew has invested in Crew2 a next step in bridging the space between youth academy and the first team. Players in Crew2 are a mix of high academy prospects and professional players. At the time of our conversation two players from Crew2 had already made the jump to the first team. Their home field is the Historic Crew Stadium, however multiple games have been played as double headers at Lower.com after Columbus Crew MLS games.
When my oldest son was participating in Crew Player Development in Pre-Academy and Academy back before the “Save the Crew” era it was clear that the focus of previous ownership was not on player development at any level. Not only were they not investing in development for our youth players but they weren’t investing in development for the first team. When I arrived at OHPC for the first time and was given a tour of the training fields, the athletic training and recovery facilities as well as the preparation and nutrition programs I saw a visible difference. The Crew’s new ownership is taking a tiered investment strategy to develop players from the bottom up (and the top down) to create a massive impact on the Ohio soccer community. After all Columbus is a soccer town.