Work hard. Play hard.
Liam Barhod and Roger Schnurr put this mantra in motion. They are proof that hard work pays off within the Atlanta United system. It all started with just a way to get out, have some fun, and enjoy the beautiful game at an Atlanta United soccer camp.
“Our camps and clinics focus on an enjoyable soccer experience for the players,” said Dean Atkins, the Coach Education & Development Manager of Atlanta United. “The curriculum is meant to bring out an element of competition, but the main focus is on an enjoyable training experience for every participant.”
Barhod and Schnurr had plenty of fun, but in the meantime were developing and improving within their local Georgia club soccer team, NASA. And although the two grew with their team, they wanted to take their game to the next level. So they joined the Atlanta United Regional Development School (RDS), a tryout-based program focused on creating high level training environments to push and challenge more advanced players.
“Georgia has a great club system—really organized, really good people who work very hard on development, so we already have a really good structure in place,” said Tony Annan, Atlanta United Academy Director. “I think if we can support that, add to it, and accelerate youth development in our state, it benefits not only the game, but Atlanta United.”
With a solid foundation set in place through their clubs, RDS can provide an additional pathway to a more professional setting and higher level of play.
“The Regional Development School is a great tool for players to get time in front of our Atlanta United staff with the aim of being recognized,” explained Atkins. “We want to have a good impact—not just in Atlanta, but in Georgia as a whole—so having our Regional Development Schools allows us to expand our geographic footprint and really get to areas that we don't get to see as frequently and make sure we are identifying the best talent in Georgia to come and play for Atlanta United.”
This opportunity not only allowed them to be seen by the Academy staff, but to be impressed by the staff, earning them spots on the U12 Academy team. The skillset and work ethic of Barhod and Schnurr caught the eye of the staff, and they were accepted into this elite program.
“It shows that players who apply themselves and work hard will get those opportunities to be seen in front of our academy staff,” Atkins said.
“I think their willingness to learn, first and foremost, and their attitude, their character is what stood out,” explained Annan. “When you see kids that have those attributes and have some good technical ability, some good decision-making ability, it makes it easy for us to invite them in and give them an opportunity to be full time with our academy.”
And it’s a great start for the Atlanta United Regional Development School. In its first year of existence, it’s already identified two players ready for the Atlanta United Academy.
“I think this is a great jumping off point for the Regional Development School to have identified our first couple of players to make it through our player pathway and into the academy,” Atkins says.
Going forward, the future of this club and Atlanta United Training Programs will still focus on developing a love for the game and providing a platform for young players to showcase their skills.
“It is important with the culture that we have here, the culture we are trying to create and enhance is character, respect, hard-work, selflessness,” said Annan. “Those sort of attributes to a player are very important to us.”
This is only the beginning as the club continues to promote the passion and joy of soccer, with hopes to continue to lay the groundwork for a youth development pyramid, the infrastructure to raise the game in Georgia, and ultimately create a new path to the pros.