Within the first 48 hours of Columbus Crew SC's initial introduction of its locally-based Pre-Academy program, over 120 kids had signed up for the Open Identification tryouts.
The program, which will consist of weekly training sessions at the Boys’ Under-9/10 and U-11/12 levels, is free-of-charge as the Academy continues to develop relationships with local clubs and break away from the typical pay-to-play style of programming.
"Through the years, we always knew we needed to get away from the pay-to-play model that we had here with the Crew Juniors,” said Academy Director Kelvin Jones.
“We knew there was always a way to grow that base in the community, so establishing a proper Pre-Academy system was always something throughout the years that we wanted to do."
Jones noted that through the Club's recent investments and developments – most notably the New Downtown Stadium and OhioHealth Performance Center – the uptick in interest with the club aligned well with the Pre-Academy announcement, and that the rollout of this type of initiative is due in large part to the continued investment from the Haslam and Edwards families, Jones added.
Notably, the Pre-Academy is entirely supplementary to players' existing club-team schedules, as it is not designed to take kids away from their current teams.
Not only is the Pre-Academy set up to keep tabs on the local talent pool, but it's also a means of establishing working relationships with area technical directors and coaches.
"It's designed with the idea in mind that clubs should know that we are willing to work with them and not against them," Jones explained.
The end goal, Jones said, is to provide players with a foundational knowledge base on the Academy's methodology and agenda, and provide the opportunity to potentially move further on up the Academy's ladder.
In an ideal setting, as Jones explained, "the natural progression is to then join a U-13 Academy team so we have a base, core group of kids that we’ve been developing for two to three years at this point that can transition straight into our Academy and they are accustomed to the way that we play and how we do things.”
Currently, the Crew SC Academy fields teams at the U-14, 15, 16/17, and 18/19 levels.
As of now, nearly 160 kids are registered for the Open Identification tryouts, which will take place on Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 and will include both the U-9/10 and U-11/12 age groups on both days. From there, those selected to advance will join the Nomination-Only tryouts on Nov. 4 and Nov. 11, and then final selections will be made.