Sometimes, doing whatever it takes to win a youth soccer game or tournament isn’t the be-all and end-all.
At least that’s the way Adam and Sarah Murry see it.
They think the emphasis should be maximizing each child’s soccer skills, while teaching them how to play together, in a professional, team setting.
To that end, the Murrys have been working with players at Zephyrhills Elite Soccer Skills Academy (ESSA), a 15,000-square-foot indoor soccer facility and training center, located at 3905 Correia Drive, off Chancey Road.
The private complex celebrated an official ribbon cutting late last year, but it has been developing players, ages 5 to 18, for nearly two years.
At ESSA, the focus is helping players develop their skills at an early age. The idea is to prepare them to succeed on their respective club or school teams, and possibly have a shot to become a college or professional player.
“We are all about the player,” Adam Murry said.
The academy’s approach is different than what tends to happen in American soccer, he said.
Many youth teams “play kickball,” or simply boot the ball up the field to the best forward to score goals and get a win, he explained.
In his view, however, “it’s not about the win. They’re 8 years old. We want to develop them as players,” he said.
At ESSA, young athletes get introduced to strategies like how to “play out the back.” They learn how to methodically pass the ball from player to player — to shift opposing teams out of position.
“I want my players to pass the ball, to move, to understand structure, to understand the next pass, to visually see the game,” Adam Murry said.
He went on: “It’s not just about kicking the ball, it’s about doing certain jobs, pulling the defense wide, pulling it tight, understanding all that.”
Adam Murry brings with him a unique background, spanning from England to the East Pasco area.
He is a former professional mixed martial arts fighter and semi-pro soccer player turned successful businessman.
He was a longtime director of AFC Bournemouth, of the Premier League, the top tier of the English football league system, and he now owns Yeovil Town Women Football Club, in southwest England.
The Murrys relocated to East Pasco a few years ago, seeing a need for a European-style soccer training center.
Adam Murry brought his connections from overseas to Florida, staffing the facility with only UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) licensed coaches, many of whom played and coached professionally internationally.
The Murrys also set up an international ID tour, which is essentially a way to help identify which players may have the potential to play as professionals or semi-pros.
In December, they took a group of U16 girls players to England, to meet with Premiership professional players and coaches, visit colleges, and play matches against various top-level English academy squads.
It’s that level of coaching and access that has already drawn kids to ESSA from as far as Clearwater, Orlando, Spring Hill and New Port Richey.
Said Sarah Murry, “We just want to get the best out of the player, given the resources and the knowledge that we have. We just want to instill what we know from experience.”
ESSA focuses on four player elements — technical, tactical, physiological and physical.
Sarah Murry defined it as “teaching from the head down, rather than the feet up.”
That philosophy begins with building confidence in young athletes, and teaching them to learn from their mistakes in a practice or a game, Adam Murry added.
He put it like this: “You’re going to make mistakes all your life. Learn how to handle that.”
ESSA staffers also work with athletes on injury prevention, such as how to correctly accelerate and deaccelerate.
“From a young age, speed, agility and quickness is taught, and we repeat those consistently, as tedious as they are,” Adam Murry said.
In addition to a full-sized artificial turf field, the indoor complex is equipped with advanced training aids, including ICON — a 360-degree enclosed unit that uses flashing lights and vibration technology to help players improve passing, shooting, awareness, decision-making, endurance and other fundamentals.
Used by several of the top Premiership programs, including FC Barcelona, Southhampton FC and Liverpool FC, Sarah Murry claims it’s the only one being used in the state of Florida. “You can literally change a player within 3 minutes on this,” Adam said of the ICON training aid.
Video of individual training sessions also are recorded at the facility and are broken down with players, in a formal classroom setting.
“It’s a process,” Adam Murry said of bettering young players. “There’s so many dimensions to playing, we just try and work them in, and try to identity things over a certain period of time.”
The soccer academy currently has open registration for its spring player development program, for boys and girls ages 6 to 8.
The 10-week introductory program, which runs from February through April, will feature individual ball manipulation, individual block passing and receiving, individual skill building and small-sided games.
For more information, visit essafc.com.
Published January 29, 2020