Courtesy of Sterling Honarkar
From a young age, Sterling Honarkar, Miles Avery, and Alexander Wall’s lives have revolved around soccer. After years of hard work, they have made it to the highest level of youth soccer: US Development Academies. These exclusive clubs restrict these elite players from joining the Wilson soccer team.
Development Academies (DA) are a partnership between the nation’s top youth soccer clubs and the U.S. Soccer Federation, including interactions with national team coaches to give more exposure to players.
Honarkar, a sophomore, plays for the Bethesda DA team. The academy season consists of four two-hour practices each week. This demanding commitment affects his social life, where time to socialize with friends is limited. Honarkar believes this inconvenience will pay off. “Now I see what soccer can get for me, and I prioritize it over most things.” He noticed the dedication of players from his academy and watched as they moved on to great schools on soccer scholarships.
“Soccer has now become a way to get free college. After hopefully playing in college, my goal is to play professionally.”
When Sophomore Avery was recruited by the DC United DA team at age 13, he was eager to join. “I want to play at the highest level possible,” Avery stated, “I want to go as far as possible with soccer.” Last year, Avery transferred to the Bethesda DA team joining Honarkar. They both see a lot of the same challenges with the main challenge being the time commitment. “You have to do homework on Friday nights when you travel.” Avery revealed. He sees himself going at least to the collegiate level with the assistance of his coaches. “The coaches have helped me improve my decision making and soccer IQ, which put me on the national team path and whatever the future holds.” he explained.
Wall started playing for Arlington Soccer Association when he was nine. Now in his Junior year, Wall has played for the DC United Academy since age 14. Wall believes DA is “the best competition around and a lot of fun.” Wall sees many of the same pros and cons as Avery and Honarkar. “I think it will help me get into college,” he revealed. Wall also described how the time consumption negatively affects him, saying his least favorite part was the long distance to practices and games. He mentioned how he has less time to do non-soccer related activities. “Sometimes I can’t go out because I have training,” he described, “some nights I can’t finish all of my homework”
Being a part of these academies also restricts a player’s ability to participate in school sports. The benefits of DA outweigh those of high school for Honarkar. “I wish I could play for Wilson too,” he said, “But since I’m not allowed to I would rather play academy.”
While these players are missed on the field as tigers, they are on track for great soccer careers. Be sure to watch out for these players someday in the future.