FRISCO, Texas -- FC Dallas U-16 midfielder Marco Ortiz isn’t living with his family in the Fort Worth area this semester. Instead, he’s staying with the family of fellow midfielder and teammate Marco Carrizales in Lake Highlands so he can be closer to Frisco and take advantage of the FC Dallas Soccer Intensive Academic Curriculum (SIAC).
The program, which launched last fall with only two student-athletes but has since grown to 20, allows Development Academy players to attend a modified class schedule in Frisco Indepent School District while training twice a day under the tutelage of Oscar Pareja and Chris Hayden, directors of player development and coaching for FCD Youth, respectively. But participants are benefiting from more than just the extra training time.
“What is even better for these student athletes is that, unlike at many other international clubs, our players are able to attend a renowned and accredited high school in the Frisco Independent School District,” said Hunt Sports Group Vice President Dan Hunt. “Education is our utmost priority for our Academy athletes and FISD offers a better education than many of these players would have gotten previously at other schools or in other districts.”
The SIAC more than doubles training time while keeping the student-athletes focused on academic achievement. Participating Academy players have four morning training sessions each week in addition to the three evening sessions that all Academy players have.
“The training sessions have been really good,” said Ortiz. “In the morning they’ve been really fun, with a lot of the U-16s participating. It’s making us come together more as a team.”
“Getting all this repetition and practicing every morning, going to school, and coming back to practice is going to help out a lot in the long run,” added Ortiz's teammate (and now roommate) Carrizales.
On days with two training sessions, the players train at Pizza Hut Park from 8:30 to 10:00 in the morning, go to school from 10:30 to 4:00 in the afternoon, and then return to Pizza Hut Park for full team practice from 6:00 to 8:00 in the evening.
Director of Coaching Chris Hayden said the first week went as smooth as possible, but cautioned it will take time for visible results to surface.
“The frequency of training for those kids is remarkable,” said Hayden. “I can tell they’re very excited. It’s still new, but I think probably in a few months we’ll really start to see the results.”
Hayden said the next step for the program is to have both of FCD’s full Academy rosters enrolled in the SIAC so all the players could benefit from the same amount and intensity of training.
“We feel that the training during the day, not only is it more frequent, because we can do it daily, but it’s also getting them at a time when they’re the freshest,” said Hayden. “They haven’t had a day’s worth of school and driving to practice and getting home late and doing the same thing again. We want to get them in a better routine.”
Hunt, who has been instrumental in the program becoming a reality, said the continuing growth of the SIAC is a huge step toward his father Lamar’s vision for the development of soccer players in the United States.
“We are now in a position to offer our players the opportunity to train the way academies are training at Barcelona, at Ajax, at Manchester United; training as many hours as they do anywhere else in the world,” said Hunt.
“This type of program is what the best clubs internationally offer, and now we are doing it here in Frisco.”