The Quakes family continues to grow.
Last Monday night, the San Jose Earthquakes welcomed over 100 Quakes Academy players and their families to Avaya Stadium for an orientation event ahead of the 2017-18 season.
Encompassing all age groups from U-12 to U-19, the players had the opportunity to meet with Quakes head coach Chris Leitch, general manager Jesse Fioranelli, the team's trainers and youth staff, as well as their respective Academy coaches. They also received their Quakes gear for the new season and had roster photos professionally taken by one of the Quakes’ first team photographers, Casey Valentine.
While many of the players, like U-19 standout Jean-Julien Foe Nuphaus, have previously competed for the Academy, close to a third of those in attendance were experiencing their first moments as members of the Earthquakes organization.
The 2017-18 season will be a landmark year for the Quakes Academy, which continues to grow thanks to a significant level of investment from the Earthquakes ownership group. The Academy has added an additional age group to its teams for next year, bringing its total number up to six (U-12, U-13, U-14, U-15, U-17, U-19), as well as more than doubling its staff size. It’s all part of a concerted effort by the club to nurture and create a pipeline of talent from across the Bay Area that feeds into the first team.
“We want to make sure that we have a vertically integrated development pathway where a player can come in at U-12, or even younger, and stay in a San Jose Earthquakes jersey up until the highest level of professional soccer in this country,” said Leitch while addressing the players at the event. “And at this organization, you’re now a part of this. You’re now a part of this development pathway that leads straight to our first team and it’s a true pathway.”
Quakes head athletic trainer Ron Shinault was also present at the event to discuss how Academy players will receive the same type of fitness training as Chris Wondolowski, Jahmir Hyka, Florian Jungwirth and the rest of the senior roster.
“Much like Chris [Leitch] talked about vertical integration, the same physicals that you guys had this past weekend by the same doctors were given to you that were given to the first team players,” Shinault told the attendees.
“[The Academy players] will be getting the same medical attention, as well as the same physical preparation and attention that our first team players get. They will start doing some weight lifting, they will start having a strength coach run them through warm-up sessions, recovery sessions, all things that we do with the first team, and it will actually be directed by us with the first team so you’re really getting a high level of athletic development and medical care.”
The Quakes Academy has come a long way since it was created less than 10 years ago and is beginning to produce the results the club is hoping for. Defender Nick Lima and midfielder Tommy Thompson are two players that came up through the Academy and Leitch believes we’ll soon see more players like them take the field at Avaya Stadium.
“We’ve had a 15-year-old at first team trainings,” Leitch said at the event. “We’ve had maybe a dozen [youth] players in and out of trainings over the last couple of months. That’s not only going to continue, that’s going to get more and more prevalent in our first team trainings.
Speaking to the younger members of the Academy, Leitch said, “I’m absolutely positive we have another big group of players, maybe a bit older than you guys, that are right there and knocking on the door, that you guys are going to see in the next year, two years, three years, four years, that are also going to be playing at this stadium, on this field that’s right in front of you.”
The new Quakes head coach, who took over as the head of the Quakes Academy in 2011, finished his presentation by congratulating the players who’ve made a commitment to the organization and expressing his gratitude at the opportunity to take part in their development.
“I congratulate you for being here. I’m extremely happy to be a part of this and extremely happy to see where this academy is today.”