Republic FC Academy’s objective has always been helping develop young local soccer players into emerging stars of tomorrow and providing an integrated pathway to becoming a professional player for our first team.
Recognizing the high level of coaching and players coming from our local community, Republic FC Academy created a collaborative U-12 program that allows for players to participate in consistent training opportunities throughout the year while remaining with their club team. This enables our Academy staff to build connections and work with specifically identified players who can be monitored and assessed over time, helping improve our identification and selection process.
Through our club relationships, scouting network, and talent identification process, players are invited to work with the Republic FC Academy coaching staff, including U-13 and U-12 Head Coach, Brian Willey, who has been with the Academy since its inauguration in 2015 and seen the evolution of the Academy process firsthand.
“I’ve been here since day one and I feel like the academy keeps getting better and better,” said U13 and U12 coach Brian Willey. “I’m from Sacramento so it’s an honor to be able to work for the local professional club.”
Willey knows full well the importance of working with the local clubs and encouraging the growth of all players in every age group across the region. And the coach believes it’s a win-win for the Indomitable Club and local clubs to work together in supporting the next generation of Sacramento soccer players.
“There are a lot of very good coaches and clubs consistently developing players across our region,” Willey said. “Their top players are getting an extra night of football at a high level, with and against some of the best players in our area. It is a great supplement to what the clubs are offering. We want to place them in an environment where we can see them challenged against the best and see how they manage adverse situations.”
Willey has laid the groundwork for a successful program at the U12 level with Republic FC, but he’s equally committed to working collaboratively with the local clubs. Once the former US Soccer Developmental Academy officially removed the U12 league , Republic FC opted to create the hybrid model that allowed players to remain with their local club for an additional year while still being introduced to the SRFC academy training environment and club culture. Ultimately, working alongside the regional clubs was an ideal option to build relationships both internally and externally and also expand the player pool across the region. From a Republic FC Academy standpoint, it’s a perfect opportunity to help support local clubs while identifying the next potential homegrown to make a first team debut.
“Through our U12 Center of Excellence Program, we will identify players, who with our guidance, can embody Republic FC’s player characteristics within our environment over time. Each player’s developmental process is unique, which is why it is important to work with and monitor as many players as possible over time as they continue to develop. Once a player enters our Academy, our staff helps foster a learning environment where each player can cultivate a growth mindset and become their best self,” Republic FC Academy Director Dennis Sanchez said.
While a group of individuals are selected each year for their respective team, new additions are brought into the Academy environment each year to create more internal competition. “My message to the players who are not selected is that this is by no means the end of your journey. We encourage them to believe in their abilities and to keep working each day within their club environment on their strengths and areas of growth while we monitor their development over time,” Willey explained.
The success of the U-12 Center of Excellence program was clearly evident, with almost all players selected for the 2020-2021 U-13 Academy team having trained in the supplemental program over this past year. This group was formed through the collaboration of working with over 20 clubs across our region and over 80 players throughout the course of the year.
The hope is that the Center of Excellence program will be one of first initial steps for players to enter Sacramento Republic’s pathway capitalize on the opportunity like Mario Penagos, Hayden Sargis, Julian Chavez, and most recently, Rafael Jauregui have done.
“I was out at first team training recently and I was excited to see the integration of a number of academy players out there,” Willey said. “It has been great to see Mario [Penagos] get minutes and Hayden [Sargis] solidify his starting role with the first team. We’ve come a long way as an Academy and it’s wonderful to see the increased integration within the club and our Academy players contributing to the first team’s success. Just look at last week’s first team match in Portland against Timbers 2 where Penagos and JuJu scored two late goals to secure the win. These kids are making an impact at the professional now and I’m extremely proud of all the hard work they’ve put in.”
Like Penagos and Sargis, Jauregui was a Republic FC Academy standout whose hard work and trust in the program allowed the 15-year-old to flourish and he has since earned his first-career first team opportunity – now the Indomitable Club’s youngest player to feature in a league match. The same can be said about 18-year-old Julian Chavez who already has one career USL game-winning goal to his name.
Our current U-12 Center of Excellence program is currently on hold due to COVID. Future training dates are to be determined and will be communicated accordingly to each club. Please visit our Talent Identification page for updated information.
Follow Republic FC on social media.