Club launches college academy for local talent
For years, prospective college soccer players from the area have had to travel over the Bay Bridge or up north to Pennsylvania for a chance at playing on their state’s Olympic Development Program team or to garner attention from college coaches.
However, thanks to River Soccer, local players now have another option — which is not only more convenient, but also more affordable, while offering a different spectrum of competitive advantages that many programs do not.
“Around here, we noticed that the ones that really shine, they have to go across the bridge or start heading to Philly, and it’s a lot of money,” said River Soccer Director Allison Bescak. “We’ve got kids that are leaving these amazing programs. We’re keeping it on a low-cost scale and really pushing the college aspect.”
Some of the premiere girls’ high school soccer stars are coming from not only local schools including Indian River and Sussex Tech, but from northern schools such as Dover, and Maryland schools as far as Easton, as well. Even with the mix of rival schools, Bescak said that the team meshes well.
“They all come together for this team,” she explained, “for the greater good of getting each other into college.”
Bescak is joined by coach Tony D’Antonio and 35-year Olympic Development Program veteran Terry Underkoeffler to coach the girls on the field. However, the program holds high academic standards, as well, with all players maintaining between a 3.7 and 4.0 grade point average.
D’Antonio — who not only owns CoreFirst gym in Salisbury, Md., and has experience as both a collegiate soccer player and coach at Salisbury University — also brings 13 years of experience as a dean of admissions and currently directs college counseling at Worcester Preparatory School.
“I’m hoping to do provide the kids with an option to speak with me about the college process,” said D’Antonio. “Even as early as their ninth-grade, 10th-grade years, they need to be thinking about, planning for, getting out, visiting schools, asking the right questions and just being prepared. Most kids aren’t — they’re just not as prepared as they could be.”
Aside from weekly practices, the girls also attend two functional movement-training sessions per week at CoreFirst gym — with the focus of the training not only on improving cardio, speed, agility and strength, but designed to encourage the girls to eat right, as well.
“Every fitness session, we do emphasize a lot with regards to what they should be eating,” D’Antonio explained. “They’re doing the work.”
But even with the SAT prep, the gym sessions, on-field training and general guidance through a process that the coaches know well, they also know that exposure is just as important. To make sure they’re attending the right tournaments and college showcases, the program consults with local college coaches for their opinions on the matter.
In August and throughout the fall, the team will be traveling to a few of those showcases — some as far away as North Carolina — to put on display for colleges what they’ve been working on. They’re also working on scheduling some possible scrimmages against local college programs.
“They just need that extra piece of somebody helping them take it to the next level,” said Bescak. “We’re kind of foraging ahead as an elite showcase team. We are going to teach them how to not only reach out to coaches, but how to apply to colleges, how to do well on their SAT — we’re really trying to guide them.”