Player development is at the core of the Houston Dynamo Academy’s mission – not just within its own ranks, but throughout the entire Houston community. The Academy’s goal is to provide players across the region the opportunity to maximize their potential.
The latest example of this player pathway is U-14 forward Ben Alanis, who over the last six months has transitioned into the Dynamo Academy with the help of his coaches at Cedar Stars Academy in Fort Bend County. With Alanis, Cedar Stars Director of Coaching Everick Stoelwinder knew they had a talented player who could benefit from the competition, resources, and path to the professional game the Dynamo Academy has to offer.
“We’re in for development of players. We can provide a certain level to play on, but when a player’s ready we need to provide them with the next step,” said Stoelwinder of the decision to collaborate with the Dynamo in Alanis’ development. “This is a big opportunity for us to make a statement that our club is in there for development, and if a player is ready we do provide them with an option. We want to provide a pathway for players to make the next step, and that’s why we want to work together with the Houston Dynamo.”
Alanis was put on the radar of the Dynamo by the Cedar Stars staff at a U.S. youth national team combine, and the two clubs worked to find ways to integrate the young player into Dynamo Academy training sessions. It started with just a training session or two per week, gently bringing him into the fold with the U-14 team.
“Every time I practice with the Dynamo, it makes me a better player,” Alanis said. “I see other players who are at my talent level and that helps me get better.”
Alanis’ story wouldn’t be possible without coaches like Herald Zurita at Cedar Stars looking out for the players’ best interest, even going the extra mile like Zurita and his wife Vanessa who help drive Alanis to and from Dynamo Academy training at Houston Sports Park from Sugar Land.
“It’s always been about the player, his development, what’s best for the player,” Zurita said. “What’s best for the kids is the MLS [academy] and the vision that Paul shared with me. Ben has come a long way, and we’re putting him in really good hands with the Dynamo.”
The Dynamo Academy’s culture of development isn’t just limited to the players within its system. As evidenced by the club’s work with Tom Byer to share his “Soccer Starts at Home” philosophy and Holocher’s Partners in Development program to provide free coaching education in the community, the mission extends to the Houston soccer scene as a whole.
In a metropolitan area with 6.5 million residents and growing, the opportunity looms large to develop more professional-quality soccer players. With such a large population and the region’s geographic spread, the continued collaboration at a grassroots level is imperative to reach as many young players as possible and provide them with the best opportunities available.
“We’re looking forward to creating platforms with the Dynamo where we can be more engaged with our local clubs on a more consistent basis,” said Holocher. “We want all the clubs in Houston to thrive. When a player does move on to the Dynamo Academy, it’s a fantastic feather in their cap for the development they are doing in their club.
“Promotion goes hand in hand with development and it allows the player to continue their development at a very high level. We have a vibrant and diverse soccer community, and when Houston is working together, clubs and coaches, in these healthy ways for the players, we can make a statement on a national level. We are all on the same journey to help these players reach their highest potentials.”
A “rising tide lifts all ships” mentality is being shared by the Dynamo Academy to continue the focus on player development across the city to benefit as many players and clubs as possible.