By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
When Ally Adrien and Ashton Gilliam, both seniors at McAuley Catholic, were at the height of their club soccer careers, many nights included a trip to Springfield and back just for training, practices and games.
Joplin-area soccer players will no longer be stuck with trips out of town to participate in a club program.
The Joplin Parks and Recreation staff announced on Friday the launch of the Joplin Demize Soccer Club, an offshoot of the Total Demize Soccer Club in Springfield.
“Driving an hour and a half both ways, three hours a night total, when we have homework and stuff was tough,” said Adrien, who was on hand for the announcement. “Being able to have that right here in our home town would have been an awesome thing to have. It will be great for the Joplin town to have that opportunity.”
The JDSC — which will call the Joplin Athletic Complex home — will be offered for boys and girls ages 7 to 18. The club will kick off with foot skills academy every Friday from April 12 to May 24.
Tryouts for the club teams will begin in June.
“We’ve never had our own club team here,” parks director Chris Cotten said. “This will be their home and when other kids are out here doing their recreational soccer, they can see soccer at a different level and hopefully get interested in it.”
Chris Hanlon, the founder and Director of Coaching for the Total Demize Soccer Club, was also on hand Friday. Total Demize boasts more than 20 youth club teams.
The goal of Total Demize — and the new Joplin Demize program — is to give kids “the ability to move forward in the future and be successful high school players, but also be able to potentially play collegiately,” Hanlon said.
And after collegiate soccer, athletes can compete for a spot on the Springfield Demize, a part of the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League, a third-tier professional league, behind Major League Soccer and the USL’s Pro division.
The JDSC, Hanlon said, will provide the proper coaching and training for soccer players to potentially reach those levels.
“You have to have the right skill set, not only technically but also tactically,” he said. “That’s the hard part about soccer. There are 11 pieces of a puzzle on one team and it’s a constant, free-flowing game that requires a lot of time and energy to be proficient.”
Luis Percovich gave up his high school coaching job in his Florida hometown and relocated to Southwest Missouri to play for the Springfield Demize and to also serve as the head professional coach for the JDSC. Hanlon said he thinks Percovich, who is bilingual, will be able to relate and connect to the Latino community in Southwest Missouri and give them a place to hone their soccer skills.
“Having played all my life, it’s a really great feeling to say I can give back to the younger generation,” said Percovich, who played collegiately at William Woods. “I decided to pack my bags and move to Missouri and leave the sunny Florida weather. I’m excited and I think it will be worth it.”
Hanlon said he hopes to bring the Springfield Demize to Joplin in the future for exhibition games or even for league games to show the community the level of soccer the program can offer.
“Most complexes with facilities like this have player development leagues that help dedicated players refine their skills to find college scholarships and continue playing soccer at a high level for years to come” he said. “And that’s what we want to provide.”