Shattuck-St. Mary's -- its system works

Shattuck-St. Mary's (Faribault, Minn.) will not appear in national high school rankings since the program does not compete on the interscholastic level.

Yet today, more soccer players from Shattuck-St. Mary's will sign National Letters of Intent for NCAA Division I schools than any other high school in the U.S.

Shattuck-St. Mary's, with its soccer academy at the school's Sports Centers of Excellence, is a relatively new concept in the development and growth of youth soccer players. SSM is not alone in its theory, but as the National Signing period starts Wednesday, Feb. 3, it stands above all others in terms of producing college-bound athletes. Nine SSM boys' soccer players are expected to sign with NCAA Division I programs at an end-of-the-school-day ceremony Wednesday.

Shattuck-St. Mary's is one of three more recognized soccer residential programs, joining IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) and St. Stephen's Episcopal (Austin, Texas).

While each program is unique, they have the common theme of elite player development. At Shattuck-St. Mary's, the program fields teams in the under-16, under-17 and under-18 age groups for boys and under-17 and under-18 for girls. The teams play what would be akin to a school-team schedule during the fall, but continue as a club the rest of the year. This past fall, the SSM under-18 boys team compiled a record of 13-2-1 competing mostly against club and college programs. The squads' two losses, both by a goal, were to the University of Minnesota and the National Premier Soccer League adult team Minnesota Twinstars. Following the fall session, the SSM U18s turned their attention to the club circuit where they went 1-0-2 at the CASL College Showcase in Raleigh, N.C., and 4-0 at the Disney Showcase in Orlando, Fla.

Of the three primary residential programs, SSM -- located about an hour's drive south of Minneapolis -- is the only one that combines school and total sport exclusively at one location. IMG athletes train and compete as a club team, but the students can attendon-campus Pendleton School or off-campus private schools. At St. Stephen's, the academics and training are connected to the school, but athletes compete for outside club teams.

Are these schools with specialized programs the wave of the future?

"I think anybody and everybody would like to have the environment we can create here," said Tim Carter, the director of soccer at Shattuck-St. Mary's. "The question always is going to be, 'How do you pay for it?'"

Right now, for programs such as Shattuck, IMG and St. Stephen's, the bill is footed by the families who can afford such placement or receive aid.

Carter, a former college coach, feels the Shattuck-St. Mary's situation is ideal for the growth and development of soccer players -- not only as athletes, but also in the classroom.

But don't look for that to become the norm, Carter said.

"I think pro soccer and everyone else involved is going to want to create more environments where kids have a better environment for training, better environment for going to school and a better environment for growing, and less time in a car driving to and from," Carter said.

"But how do you manage all of this while having the current culture of saying education is important?" Carter said. "If you're going to say education is important, then how do you go about creating an environment where you have your dedicated time for the development of the soccer player while making sure the kid gets a high school education rather than blow it off? We can't become that culturally bankrupt. Then, how do you take care of the kid? How do you feed them? Sleep them? Take care of their injuries?

"So will there be more [programs] like IMG, St. Stephen's or Shattuck, the question is I don't know," Carter added. "But I do know as we push soccer forward and try to create more environments for players that the ingredients of this kind of [setting] are what people are going to try to replicate. Is it going to be like Shattuck-St. Mary's? No. But they will try to replicate some of the ingredients because it has worked and it is working."

The SSM program started with 34 student-athletes in 2005 and now tops 100. The biggest name to hail from the school is Teal Bunbury, the former Akron star who was selected as the No. 4 overall pick in this year's MLS SuperDraft.

The next generation of Shattuck-St. Mary's college-bound players are:

Player, Position, Hometown or Country, College Commitment

Gideon Asante, F/MF, Ghana, Old Dominion
Brian Billings, GK, Minn., Bradley University
Patrick Donyen, F/MF, Minn., Dayton
Michael Gandier, MF/F, Minn., Furman
Adam Glanzer, MF, S.D., Butler University
Ethan Harlow, D, Vermont, Boston University
Adekunle Oluyedun, F, Ind., Butler University
Karim Peterson-Darbaki, MF, Minn., Northern Illinois
Joey Tennyson, MF, Wisconsin, Wisconsin