Everton America: Soccer club gives players a chance to learn from Manchester United alumnus
Few youngsters in the United States get the chance to benefit from the traditional European model of soccer training, though one English club is looking to change that trend in Wilton and the surrounding areas.
Everton America is the official extension of the English Premier League soccer club Everton FC, which is based in Liverpool. Offering intensive training based on professional soccer standards, the American extension is one of the first clubs of its kind in the United States.
Since 2007, the club has worked directly with its premier league colleagues to support soccer training in Connecticut and Westchester County, N.Y.
“For a long time, clubs were looking to Asia for the newest players,” said John Curtis, the technical director of Everton America and a former Manchester United footballer. “Now they are starting to realize that America is the untapped area of the world.”
Mr. Curtis oversees the club’s boys and girls teams from its headquarters at 196 Danbury Road in Wilton along with a number of professional coaches and staff trained by Everton’s own talent. A right-back defender by trade, Mr. Curtis says that the club’s ultimate goal is to help young American players get noticed on the international level.
“We ultimately want to provide a path in the United States which is equivalent to the path I was able to benefit from in England. In Europe, no matter where you are, or how much money you have, your skills will be noticed. They have an extensive scouting network which cannot be found in the U.S.”
Everton FC has a long history of nurturing talent, the staff at Everton America said, and Everton America’s goal is to spread that educational expertise to the U.S.
“I’m a big believer in teaching, making, and molding young players,” Mr. Curtis said. “For a long time, I didn’t think that way. I thought you were born with it, or you weren’t. But, during my time with European clubs, I discovered that in the right environment, with the right soccer education, you can make a great soccer player. We hope to be an organization which spreads that message.”
At a team practice on Monday, Aug. 5, Mr. Curtis and his staff were reinforcing that message for their players. After a practice full of shouts urging players to “move quicker!” and “put the ball on goal!,” Mr. Curtis gathered his team to remind them of an important soccer concept.
“Footballers are thinkers,” he said. “Footballers are thinkers first and foremost. You must always be thinking about the next moment.”
M.J. Farrar, of Wilton, has a son who plays for Everton America named Cameron. She said it was an easy decision to place her son under Mr. Curtis’s tutelage.
“It’s a real quality program with a lot of coaches who have real, professional experience,” she said.
Mr. Curtis says that his club is made up of “highly qualified coaches that you simply won’t find anywhere else in the country.”
“I’m at [the official Everton training program] twice a year. We get the material support from the club, and the ability to bring English expertise to the United States.”
Another of Everton America’s coaches, goalkeeping trainer Leons Othenyert, said the kinds of training Everton offers cannot be matched by other area soccer clubs. Mr. Othenyert is a former Leyton Orient FC player, and was a coach with Arsenal’s academy program.
“We do two keeper sessions a week, and focus on both proactive, and reactive, training,” he said. “We also offer post-game analysis, while maintaining the standards of an official premier league program.”
What also sets Everton apart from other youth clubs, Mr. Othenyert said, was that its instructors are full-time coaches.
Paul Hennessey, another Everton America coach, stressed that the English model his club follows is above and beyond anything else offered in the area. Mr. Hennessey holds a master of science in sports coaching, and has coached the University of Worcester Ladies first team.
“We give our players the uniform approach, and expectations of a professional English club. We use the same curriculum as any level 1 academy,” he said.
This approach, he says, allows the coaches to help their players become “the best players they can be,” he said.
“We don’t pigeonhole our players,” he added. “We offer something that covers our players’ and parents’ desires — whether it be a college scholarship, or a shot at the pros.”