On Monday night at Starfire the Seattle Sounders Academy hosted a few of their current seniors who are signing and faxing their National Letters of Intent into various schools. There is a bit less of a local flavor in the schools chosen in this class, but for these student-athletes and potential pros it is "Just one more step on a long ladder in life," according to Academy Technical Director Darren Sawatzky.
Six of the commits, now signees, sat at a table in front of their families, their Academy coaches, representatives from SoundersFC.com and Sounder at Heart. There were no cameras, no ESPN specials, just the joy of making that commitment and knowing that their time with the Academy and high school is coming to a close as they take the next step.
Each gave their reasons for choosing their future university. The variety there was what you expect from late teenagers - beaches, small town, large city, wanting to stay home, wanting to go away, wanting to get closer to some of their family, playing with old friends, making new ones. Their choices today will influence their lives, not just their chance to be a pro, but their education. Forward Jordan Morris switched to the Academy this year from his previous time in club and school.
Morris told Sounder at Heart "It's definitely helped me develop more as a player and as a person." That was one rung on that ladder. While he had committed to Stanford prior to joining the Seattle Sounders, he saw the impact in the number of coaches watching their matches as opposed to his past club and high school games. As they traveled the country he saw national team coaches and many college coaches watching their games.
The long time members of the Academy used that to go to schools all over the country. This is the third class of seniors and the variety of schools is wider every year.
"They're in the Academy and they get looked at a lot more. They are going to schools like Cincinnati, Drexel, Charleston and getting opportunities that they would not get 10 years ago," Sawatzky said after the event. "The thing we can take great pride in is that we can say that this group of kids are going to go off and represent us well."
Where football and basketball recruiting gets headlines, assemblies and sometimes even TV shows soccer is more low key. Still Sawatzky wanted to make certain that the kids leaving his program soon got a little taste of that attention as well. While they are Islanders, Titans, Cougars and more they are also Sounders.
Each will carry their year or more in the Rave Green with them as they bear new colors, as they spread what it means to be a Sounder. They will continue climbing that ladder of life and soccer.
"At the end of the day the percentage of guys that play professional soccer will be very small. We want kids out in the Academy to represent us well and represent the fans and organization well. That's the bigger goal," Sawatzk spoke of goals beyond the game. "They're all over the country. One thing guys say to us all the time is that we want to recruit Sounders Academy guys. That means these kids are doing something right out there. I said to the boys tonight that there's always another level. That's not just about soccer, it's about manhood. You have to grow every day."
They will no grow wearing new colors, with new mascots, at new schools.
Below is a list of the National Letters of Intent signed at this time. More will filter in soon.
Jacob Hauser-Ramsay: University of Cincinnati
Jason McGlothern: Virginia Commonwealth University
Kyle Bjornethun: Seattle University
Jordan Kollars: Seattle Pacific University
Jordan Morris: Stanford University
Ike Crook: College of Charleston
Mark Matula: Drexel University
Michael Steele: Oregon State University
Some may be back in Rave Green with the U23s or even the First Team in the future. The next home Academy game for the U18s is on March 16th at Noon in the Starfire Stadium.