Another historic weekend for the Atlanta United youth training programs has come and gone, with the inaugural RDS Showcase at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. RDS, or the Regional Development School, is the elite, tryout-based program for players aged 8-14, and the best of the best were invited out to where the pros train for a special day of high-level competition, all under the watchful eye of the Atlanta United Academy coaching staff.
“The level of play was particularly good given that this was our first showcase,” said program Director Dean Atkins. “Coming off the back of three seasons of RDS and identifying top players within the program, it was fulfilling to see the caliber of player the program is already attracting. Having an opportunity to showcase them in front of the Academy staff was a big step in the development of the Regional Development School program.”
It’s just the latest step for the program that has lined up success after success in just over a year of existence. With already two players chosen for the Atlanta United Academy, it’s giving players a chance to put their skills on display and take their game to the next level.
“It shows there is a pathway from RDS into the Academy that will hopefully lead to the pros as well, should they stay in the Academy and do well,” said Atlanta United Academy Director Tony Annan. “Having that avenue for discovery and player identification is a big thing for the Academy.”
“The showcase gives us the ability to recognize talented players, whether they be male or female, whether they’re 8 years old and just entering our pathway to the pros or they’re 14 and already playing in the Georgia soccer landscape,” Atkins added. “The goal is to showcase players to possibly be selected for the Academy, but for those that don’t quite make it there, we still support their development. If they’re not playing with our Academy, maybe they’re playing at a high level somewhere else with another Development Academy team, ECNL, or to whatever level they aspire to play. The goal of the program is to support them in their development, and exposing players to high-level environments and competitive play will help them achieve those goals.”
It’s not just about finding the best talent to play for the Atlanta United Academy, it’s also about fulfilling the club’s ultimate mission of growing the grassroots game all over Georgia. Because while not every player will play at the pro level, the training programs can teach every young player something about life or the beautiful game.
“Sometimes the best players don’t start off as great players, and we find that in the RDS program that the most successful players on the field –– and more importantly the most successful people in life –– are the ones that don’t take no for an answer,” Atkins said. “So, whether a player is going to our RDS tryouts and didn’t make it that time around, or they’re in the RDS program but didn’t get a showcase recommendation, or they’re at the showcase but didn’t quite get an invite to the Academy, the beauty of sports is that it is competitive. And that’s the environment that you need in order to thrive and keep developing. For those players that don’t get the news that they want, the goal is to prove people wrong, to not take no for an answer and use that as motivation to keep practicing and growing to showcase themselves in the future. We encourage players in the RDS program to keep coming back, not just to get great training with our coaches, but also to showcase themselves and how they’ve developed since we last saw them.”
“It’s a supportive program for players where they get additional training with the Atlanta United method,” Annan says. “In addition to their clubs doing a good job with them, they get an additional training night with our staff, which helps them technically. It also helps them become more confident and a better player all around. More training, and more importantly better training, makes you a better player.”
And as always, Atlanta United is committed to build on the success of the first season to take things to the next level in the second full year of the training programs.
“The outcome from the first RDS showcase is that we’re going to create two training groups in the Spring, with a view to showcase players further for selection for the United Juniors program and the Academy U-12 team to be formed in 2020,” Atkins says. “And hopefully it’s a cool experience for every player to come see the environment in which our first team, ATL UTD 2 and Academy train day in, day out in order to push on to the next level. To get some insight into what the looks like will hopefully inspire a young player that wants to keep playing the game.”
For more information on the Regional Development School and all of our other youth training programs, click here.