Since COVID-19 basically shut everything down in March, it has been tough for local sports organizations to move forward.
If anything, they have moved backward with the uncertainty of when they will be allowed to resume full practice and eventually, games. I have been impressed with the resolve most of the youth sports groups have shown throughout the pandemic.
Some have been able to run camps following strict social distancing guidelines. It has allowed the kids to get outside, work on their skill sets, and be around their friends -- all the while be under a safe and structured environment.
The bottom line: The kids want to get outside and play.
I see it when I am driving around Pleasanton each day. The parks are getting more crowded, be it kids playing with their parents or more and more, kids playing with kids.
This is what the youth sports organizations are dealing with -- trying to figure out how to get everyone back involved. In this day of parents and teachers' unions fighting it out over when school can begin, sports can be the only sense of normalcy for the youth.
I have said before that kids learn as much in sports as they do in the classroom. Athletics, or any extracurricular activity, is every bit important as academics in the development of a child.
I have been able to see up close how one local youth sports group has been working hard in terms of keeping in touch with their athletes.
The Ballistic United Soccer Club (BUSC) has been around for over 50 years and has been proactive in engaging their base be it through social media, email blasts, Zoom meetings and camps. BUSC also has taken steps forward in the continued development of their Developmental Academy for elite players.
The club took a hit when the United States Soccer Federation discontinued their Developmental Academy program, leaving a lot of youth clubs around the country in limbo.
Shortly thereafter, Major League Soccer (MLS) stepped forward to announce that 65 former U.S. Soccer Development Academy (DA) clubs would join the league's existing club academies to create a partnership that will transform youth player development in the United States and Canada.
The 65 youth clubs will join the MLS academies as "Founding Members" of MLS's elite player development platform. The new platform, which will include more than 8,000 players throughout the U.S. and Canada, will consist of elite year-round competition, as well as player identification initiatives, coaching education opportunities and additional programming to create the premier player development environment.
The elite academy clubs that are Founding Members of the new platform have also been leaders in the development of players for college, MLS and the national teams. Combined, MLS Academies and the elite academies joining the platform have produced more than 90% of the U.S. Youth National Team players in the last year, making the new platform the top destination for the best young players in North America.
BUSC currently has four players that spent time in its DA program on MLS rosters. Three -- Gilbert Fuentes, Cade Cowell, and Jacob Akanyirige -- are with the San Jose Earthquakes. Nico Lemoine is a member of the Houston Dynamo.
All four cut their competitive teeth with BUSC. One thing the club didn't offer were DA teams for the older youth players, but that has been remedied and done so with impressive coaching hires for their teams like former MLS player Eric Denton and Dana Taylor, a coach with extensive collegiate coaching experience.
Former BUSC player Kevin Crow, who played professionally for San Diego, as well as represented the United States in two Olympics, remains as the club's technical director.
All of our local youth sports organizations have the best interests of the kids in mind and offer kids to build their social interaction skills, as well as teach life lessons. I look forward to the day kids are going to be allowed to be kids again.
Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his "Pleasanton Preps" column, email [email protected]