Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 9.17.47 AMGood news, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants! There’s a new soccer-based high school in Wayne, so now your kid can run faster, kick harder and do something that Anne’s kid is totally not doing!*

The Union are expanding their youth operation by partnering with YSC Sports to open up a brand new soccer academy that masquerades as a high school is a high school.

You see, soccer, as a sport, places a large emphasis on homegrown talent and local academies. This is huge in Europe, but no so much in the US. It’s part of the reason why America doesn’t churn out the sort of soccer talent that other countries do. So, the effort by the Union to fill this learning gap is a noble one.

But let’s not confuse the goals here.

To the Press Release Takedown, a PRT!

Philadelphia Union and Official Youth Development Partner YSC Sports are excited to announce the launch of a new era in youth soccer development in the US with the opening of YSC Academy, a state of the art private school for 8th through 12th grade elite soccer players.

You know, the Chinese do this sort of thing with their gymnasts… and that always ends well:

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Located adjacent to YSC Sports in Wayne, PA, YSC Academy is a college preparatory school that provides motivated youth soccer players the opportunity to pursue their dreams of playing professional soccer while engaging in a top-level education program that prepares them for life beyond the game.

Because when you’re an eighth grader and your parents send you to a specialized soccer school, it’s all about life beyond the game.

Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz was excited to see this opportunity come together for Philadelphia youth players stating, “Congratulations to YSC Academy on this historic announcement. We are proud to be affiliated with such a top class group of educators and look forward to being the motivational inspiration to the students to achieve their dreams.”

To be able to bend it like Beckham.

All 33 students entering YSC Academy¹s inaugural year originate from Philadelphia Union¹s amateur youth soccer development programs, which are provided to selected youth players in the greater Philadelphia market free of cost. Student-athletes from the school will either play for their local club team or for Philadelphia Union amateur Academy squads (U14, U16 or U18).  Some of YSC Academy student-athletes are also US National Team pool players. Over 60 percent of student-athletes enrolled in YSC Academy for the 2013-2014 school year are receiving financial aid, which is provided on an as need basis following NAIS guidelines.

So who’s the esteemed intellectual leading this charge?

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“College is not a backup plan. It’s a co-plan.”

Helllllllo, Dr. Nooha!

YSC Academy Head of School Dr. Nooha Ahmed-Lee said, “As an educator I could not be more excited about the rigorous academic program we have developed utilizing current brain research on metacognition and learning for the student-athlete. Our educational curriculum is focused on developing skills of critical thinking, collaboration, character, creativity and confidence. In an ever-changing world where learning is 24/7 our blended learning approach ensures that each student is fully prepared for the world that lies ahead.”

Actually, you’re starting to win me over, Dr. Koopa Troopa. Critical thinking, character, confidence? At least you’re all in our face about not teaching English, Math and Science. Oh hey look our curriculum just happens to include skills that are REALLY IMPORTANT FOR SOCCER!

For years, college athletes have hid behind faux majors and, come to think of it, I’ve never heard of one D-I basketball player who became a sociologist. But there will be no such ruse at YSC Academy, where athletes – er, students – will wear that collaborator badge with honor, baby.

Success at YSC Academy will not exclusively be measured by how many players are produced to represent Philadelphia Union at PPL Park, but importantly in the quality of students and the strength of character developed as they pursue excellence both on and off the field of play. A daily routine for students will combine a strategic mixture of technical soccer and athletic development as well as rigorous academic courses.

When “academic courses” is preceded by “as well as” in a high school syllabus, you know some serious learnings are will be had they’re.

YSC founder Rich Graham stated, “Core to YSC Academy¹s philosophy, and equally emphasized in Philadelphia Union’s amateur youth development programs, is the idea of kids taking significant ownership in their learning process. Teachers, coaches and parents can guide and facilitate, but ultimately education is in the hands of the student-athlete. Above all else, I am excited to see this special learning environment being made possible for kids in our community, and I can’t wait to see the positive things they will achieve in life when given the chance to maximize their potential.”

On and off the pitch, am I right?!

YSC Academy exists in support of Philadelphia Union’s belief that youth development is the foundation for sustained on-field and off-field peak performance. Philadelphia Union and YSC Sports are deeply committed to being leaders in giving proactively and investing directly in the development of youth soccer.

Hearts and minds. Hearts and headers.

*Disclaimer: I went to college on the Main Line, never living more than 300 yards from the R5, and my fiancée hails from a small Bucks County town called “Buckingham.” I can make these jokes.