IDA and Toronto United FC: A  Meaningful Partnership

IDA is proud to create partnerships with clubs that open doors for players from all over the world. Sebastien Blanchet, a 16-year-old left-back, and Malcolm Thompson, a 16-year-old center-back, recently embarked on such a journey with IDA, the International Development Academy. Both players from Toronto United FC (TUFC) had an enriching summer pre-season experience with IDA, a partnership that has proven to be instrumental in their development.

Blanchet and Thompson’s summer stint with IDA was not just a brief detour but a pivotal chapter in their footballing journey. Having gained valuable insights and training during the pre-season, the duo returned to finish the second half of the season with enhanced skills and a broader perspective on the beautiful game.

Amidst the success stories, it’s crucial to acknowledge the concerted efforts of both IDA and TUFC in delivering quality programs for TUFC players. The collaboration between the two organizations during the last season laid the groundwork for a nurturing environment that fosters player growth, tactical understanding, and skill refinement.

Central to this flourishing partnership is the IDA Partner Program, a platform that goes beyond conventional training sessions. This program is designed to provide TUFC players with unparalleled exposure and unique competitive opportunities, not just through individual programs but also by actively involving them in international events and tournaments.

Eric, the Technical Director of TUFC, shares his thoughts on the collaboration, stating, “Our inaugural year with IDA has been a success. This collaboration opens doors for our players to train and compete internationally in diverse European locations. We also gain access to high-quality international tournaments, offering a unique chance for our teams to excel outside their usual environment. We are consistently impressed by IDA’s professional management and approach, laying a solid foundation for future growth.”

In conclusion, the journey of Sebastien Blanchet and Malcolm Thompson from TUFC to IDA exemplifies the positive impact of strategic partnerships in youth football. As the collaboration continues to flourish, it not only enhances individual player development but also elevates the standard of football programs provided by both IDA and TUFC. The future looks promising for these young talents, who are now equipped to face the global stage with confidence and skill.

James Wielfaert Commits to Rollins College: From Belgium to IDA Valencia to Florida, USA

In the summer of 2022, James Wielfaert embarked on a transformative journey that would shape his soccer career and academic pursuits. Hailing from Belgium, James was initially invited to the Levante Academy, but it was the allure of IDA Valencia that ultimately captured his heart.

One of the key factors that drew James to IDA Valencia was the opportunity to enroll in a foreign academy. The prospect of advancing both athletically and academically resonated strongly with him. Upon a trial visit and a conversation with Rick, it became evident that IDA Valencia was the right place for James to nurture his talents.

The coaching staff, including top trainers like Vicente, Dilan, Toni, Pedro, and the support team with individuals like Jordi, Laura, Ivan, all played pivotal roles in creating a positive and nurturing environment. Notably, the academic aspect, facilitated by the USPA, added an extra layer of excellence to James’s experience, with commendable teachers and the indispensable presence of Alberto.

While the overall experience was described as wonderful, James faced a significant challenge in obtaining a license to play for a Spanish team as a minor, particularly at the Liga Nacional level. However, his determination and the unwavering support from the IDA Valencia team prevailed.

James Wielfaert’s primary goal is to become a professional soccer player, and he saw attending university in the United States as an integral step towards achieving this dream. Grateful for the recruitment into the men’s soccer team at Rollins, James acknowledges the exceptional staff and the conducive environment for both playing and studying. Notably, Kaden Foreman, who also transitioned from IDA UK to Rollins, serves as a testament to the caliber of talent nurtured at IDA academies.

Expressing his gratitude, James credits individuals like Peter, Jordi, and the entire IDA community for their role in his journey. His commitment and perseverance are highlighted by his strong will and character, traits that are undoubtedly contributing factors to his success.

In James’s own words, “IDA Valencia has made me a better person and a better soccer player.” He attributes much of his growth to Coach Dilan Nash, with whom he shares a close relationship both on and off the field. James’s ultimate goal is to turn professional, a mindset that reflects his self-belief and determination. He leaves for the USA with an eagerness for the new challenge, viewing it as the final step toward realizing his dream.

James Wielfaert encapsulates the spirit of IDA Valencia – a place where passion, dedication, and guidance converge to shape aspiring athletes into professionals, both on the field and in life. As he steps onto the soccer fields of the United States, James carries with him the lessons and experiences gained at IDA Valencia, ready to make his mark on the global soccer stage. Congratulations on your commitment James, we are excited to continue to watch you grow in the US!

IDA’s Partnership with Puerto Rico Surf

The International Development Academy (IDA) takes great pride in its enduring partnership with Puerto Rico Surf, a collaboration that has been thriving since the inception of the Academy in 2020. From the outset, Puerto Rico Surf wholeheartedly embraced IDA’s mission, recognizing the potential for growth and excellence in soccer development.

At present, Puerto Rico Surf boasts a robust presence with four players stationed at our Valencia location, featuring talents such as Pablo Loinaz and Ruben Rosado. However, the pinnacle of Puerto Rico Surf’s success within the IDA narrative unfolds in the remarkable journey of Jeremy De Leon. Having joined IDA in 2020, Jeremy dedicated himself to getting stronger and improving his fitness, analyzing his gameplay footage, and immersing himself in a professional soccer environment.

During his two-year stint with IDA, Jeremy’s trajectory reached extraordinary heights—he received a call-up to represent the Puerto Rican national team and gained professional experience with CD Castellon, ultimately culminating in the realization of his dream: signing a professional contract with none other than Real Madrid.

Looking ahead, the ongoing partnership between IDA and Puerto Rico Surf signifies a commitment to expanding collaborative endeavors, introducing more activities both on the island and across various IDA locations. As Puerto Rico Surf experiences rapid growth, providing their players with opportunities to compete internationally becomes a priority. Hector Sola, representing PR Surf, expressed confidence in IDA, emphasizing the program’s quality and highlighting the seamless communication with Jordi and Ivan, which facilitates the support of players in their developmental journey.

Rick Angelicola, IDA’s Global Director, echoed the sentiment of gratitude for the invaluable partnership with Puerto Rico Surf. He expressed enthusiasm about continuing this collaboration to offer transformative experiences for all players, akin to the success story of Jeremy De Leon. Angelicola eagerly anticipates identifying and nurturing the talents of the next aspiring player who will go on to achieve their goals under the joint banner of IDA and Puerto Rico Surf.

Our IDA staff was recruiting at the 2019 Youdan Cup in England when they noticed a stand-out player. In a game between GPS National Team and Sheffield United, GPS player Jeremy De Leon took the spotlight. Jeremey, being a former Puerto Rico Surf player, decided to join IDA Valencia in 2020 to complete his high school education with USPA while training full-time.

A few key factors contributed to Jeremy’s success and growth as a player. At the International Development Academy, we strive to provide our players with all the resources, energy, and motivation needed to achieve their goals. However, success does not come without work. Jeremy embodies IDA’s values; he came to IDA with a rather small stature and built up his strength and technicality over time. His dedication to the game and the culture at IDA was met with a rewarding career at the International Development Academy and beyond.

At just 17 years old, Jeremy led the Puerto Rico Under-20 Team in the 2022 CONCACAF Championship Qualifier with two goals against Bermuda. De Leon also competed in Puerto Rico’s 2022 UNCAF U-19 Tournament in Belize, where he netted 2 out of 3 goals in a 3-3 draw. After one year at IDA, he became a regular with the senior Puerto Rican national team as well as catching eyes from Atletico Madrid and Villarreal.

Following a very successful trial with CD Castellon’s youth team, where he scored 11 goals in 10 games, Jeremy De Leon signed his first professional contract with CD Castellon’s first team—members of the third tier of Spanish soccer. The contract will last until 2024.

Jeremy’s professional debut in the Primera Division RFEF was in CD Castellon’s derby game against Villarreal CF B. He would go on to play against FC Barcelona B at the Estadi Johan Cruyff at just 18 years of age. Since joining the Castellon squad, Jeremy has earned match MVP, gained sufficient minutes, and proven his worth at the professional level. Perhaps Jeremy’s most treasured success to date was scoring in front of a sold-out crowd in Castellon’s 4-3 playoff victory against RC Deportivo on June 11, 2023. 

Added January 24, 2024:

After making his mark on CD Castellon for over a year including 43 appearances and 2 goals, the 19-year old has signed a professional contract with Real Madrid. Jeremy’s two-year contract will last until 2026. He is set to join Madrid’s reserve team, Real Madrid Castilla. The team plays in the Segunda Division B and is managed by Real Madrid Legend, Raúl González Blanco. 

Jeremy will be the second Puerto Rican to ever wear a Real Madrid jersey. We are extremely proud to continue to follow Jeremy’s journey that started at our Valencia Academy in 2020!

IDA offers ambitious student-athletes aged 15-22 the opportunity to develop their game while following a fulfilling academic curriculum. With four locations throughout the United States and Europe, players are in control of their own pathways to college and/or professional levels. Stay, train, and compete in over 50 matches a year while pursuing the next steps in an athletic and academic career.

Reach out to IDA today to find out how we can help you get started on your professional journey today!

Many students take a gap year to focus on traveling, sports, and self-discovery. But is it worth it? Discover the pros and cons of taking a gap year.

College soccer players listening to coach on the bench during a game.

Taking a gap year after high school is becoming more and more popular, with many colleges now encouraging students to do so. Some proponents even argue that a gap year, or a year of service before starting college, should be mandatory for all students!

Despite the advantages of taking a gap year, many students don’t fully understand the concept of a gap year. You may believe it involves traveling aimlessly and wasting time — but that’s a common misconception.

What is a gap year?

A gap year is when you take a year off, typically between high school graduation and college. So instead of beginning college the fall after you finish high school, you’d start the following fall.

Gap years are meant to give students a break from academics. It’s usually a time to discover yourself and consider what kind of education and career you want to pursue.

A gap year can take many forms. For example, you could work a job, complete an internship, volunteer, or travel. You can do these activities independently or as part of a gap year program.

Why Do People Take Gap Years?

In one survey, the two most common reasons students gave for taking a gap year before college were to recover from academic burnout and to learn more about themselves.

A gap year not only gives you time to recharge and refocus but also allows you to learn more about yourself on your own terms.

Research on the benefits of a gap year has led schools like Harvard University, New York University, and MIT to encourage students to take one.

Many colleges even allow accepted applicants to defer their admission for a year so they can take a gap year.

Taking a Gap Year with IDA: Pros and Cons

Although many students can benefit from taking a gap year after high school, the path isn’t for everyone. Here are some gap year pros and cons to consider before making a decision.

✅ Pro: You’ll Enter College Feeling Refreshed and Refocused

The clarity earned by taking a gap year before college can positively affect your academic performance. Research shows that those who take a gap year are more likely to graduate in four or fewer years compared to the national average of six years.

The time spent reflecting and learning about potential paths can also help you make a more informed decision when picking a major.

❌ Con: You May Feel Isolated or Like You’re Falling Behind

Watching friends leave for college and go through similar experiences at the same time can increase FOMO. Likewise, knowing you’ll be going through these experiences a year after your peers might make you feel as though you’re falling behind.

While these feelings are understandable, remember that entering college one year late won’t ultimately harm your professional trajectory. You’ll get to experience college all the same when you eventually start school again.

✅ Pro: You’ll Build Important Skills

You can use your gap year to develop any number of key life skills. This could mean learning a language while living in another country, honing communication and leadership skills while being part of a group, and specifically with IDA, you can work holistically on your soccer development.

❌ Con: It May Be Harder to Transition Back to School

Spending your gap year idle or withdrawn from academic engagement could make your transition back to school tricky.

The best way to avoid this problem is to keep yourself engaged and challenged by material you find interesting. At IDA you can also take advantage of our multiple academic partners, for college credits and college prep courses.

✅ Pro: It Can Attract College Coaches and Future Employers

A productive gap year is a great time to engage in resume-building activities. Learning a skill, gaining soccer experience in a foreign league, studying a language, or spending months learning about a specific topic or country can all help your resume stand out.

A year spent abroad can also build skills that will impress potential employers.

✅ Pro: You Can Broaden Your Horizons

Traveling and living abroad for your gap year can be a transformative experience. Immersing yourself in a new culture, learning a language, and seeing the world from a different perspective can help you discover your passions and purpose.

Should You Take a Gap Year?

A gap year isn’t for everyone. Though popular, gap year programs and international travel can cost a pretty penny. It’s worth considering how a gap year could affect your finances before you decide whether to take one.

Other factors to consider include what kinds of activities you plan to do during your gap year. IDA with its focus on soccer gives you the structure to make a productive gap year

Ask yourself: What goals do you want to achieve before starting college? Do you think you have still room to improve as a player to be better ready for a college soccer carear?

Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine whether a gap year is the best course of action for you and your goals. But if you want to learn more how IDA can help you in this process, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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