Thursday, January 26, 2012
BRADENTON, Fla. – When the opportunity presented itself to bring the USL PRO Combine presented by Umbro to IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., it seemed as though the agreement would be a win-win for both organizations.
After the first session of goalkeeper training at the scenic facility on Thursday evening, that assessment certainly proved to be correct.
“It’s great for myself and for all of the local kids in our academy to get a chance to see what a great event is going to happen here over the next four or five days,” IMG Soccer Academy goalkeeping coach Scott Bowers said. “The kids are excited, I know the staff at the coaching academy’s very excited and obviously to be able to host this kind of event, we feel very privileged.”
The 12 goalkeepers that participated in the session felt the same way after arriving at the facility. After a two-hour session that saw the groups put through their paces in different facets of the game, they gave a glowing review to their surroundings.
For Robert Mueller, who previously played for the Austin Aztex U23s in the USL PDL, the return to Bradenton after having played here in the past was a nice one. So was the chance to get the individual attention USL National Technical Director Peter Mellor and his fellow coaches were able to afford.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Mueller said. “You don’t get this sort of opportunity twice, so you’d better take advantage of it now. There’s a lot of good ‘keepers out there and they don’t get to be in front of this coaching staff with this knowledge.”
Billy Hale, who had a solid season for the West Virginia Chaos last summer, agreed with Mueller.
“For me it’s a real confidence boost with the opportunity to get out there,” Hale said. “It’s not USL just … throwing us in with everyone else and getting lost in the crowd, we’re getting individual time, we’re getting individual instruction from the great coaches here.”
Bowers, who is also one of the coaches working at the Combine this week, said the positive energy he felt from the players as they got onto the practice field was certainly noticeable. That left him with a great feeling of pride as to what IMG Academies has been able to accomplish since opening its new soccer complex around 10 months ago, as well as for what the weekend will offer when the rest of the players arrive in Bradenton on Friday.
“When you look at the weather, when you look at the facilities, you can feel the energy from the players out here,” Bowers said, “how excited they are, wanting to be down here to have the opportunity to be in the combine but also to check out the facilities. It’s taken a lot of work to get things to where we wanted, but like I said, we’re very pleased.”