Meet Spencer, from Paris Saint-Germain Academy Florida to ICEF
As some states in the U.S. are very close to a second lockdown, the concern that parents and children feel about their academic and football (soccer) options for next season is rising. The International Center of European Football has extended its application period due to a peak in late inquiries, mostly coming from families in the U.S.
The nearly 25 million soccer players in the U.S. and their parents are continuing to feel the loss of opportunity they encountered since the early days of March 2020, when training, tournaments, and leagues were put on pause.
With so much continued uncertainty due to the serious and recent resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the U.S., families are considering options such as boarding schools that offer elite football programs or professional institutions in Europe, like the International Center of European Football.
We are glad to introduce Spencer (16 years old), who is preparing to join the center for his first season as part of ICEF’s 10-month Pro Residency program, kicking off on August 24th, 2020. Spencer and his parents have agreed to answer a few questions on their decision to enroll at ICEF, his background and plans for the future.
Can you tell us a little bit more about you, your football (soccer) and academic background?
Spencer: Sure, I am 16 years old and I have been playing for Paris Saint-Germain Academy Florida in West Palm Beach for the last two years as Center Midfielder. I am a high school student and will start my 11th grade at the International Center of European Football. It is so exciting!
How were you selected to the 10-month Pro Residency program? Did you participate in an online or on-site tryout session?
Spencer: I participated in a tryout session at the Paris Saint-Germain Academy USA Campus back in November 2019, before the Covid-19 health crisis.
Excellent. Congratulations on your selection. How was it?
Spencer: I was literally head to toes nervous. Because of the pressure, I didn’t give 100% of my potential so I was worried that I did not pass the selection which was very thorough. Now I know that we are all very anxious to go through this selection process… I can’t wait to work on my mental preparation to be more efficient in a high pressure environment.
Have you participated in any other kind of tryouts for a football residency Academy in Europe or in the U.S.?
Spencer: The only two tryouts I ever participated in were Paris Saint-Germain Academy and my High School team. I actually failed my first tryout to get into a Paris Saint-Germain Academy team so they gave me a second chance to re-apply and I was eventually selected. I am grateful.
So you were not originally looking for a soccer boarding school?
Spencer: No, I didn’t even know that it existed. I participated in a summer experience with my team last year at the center. And it grew on me, while I was there, I loved that everything was revolving around football. It was like a football sanctuary where we focus on our passion. It was new for me, and I was so excited to be part of it!
How do you believe being part of Paris Saint-Germain Academy Florida has prepared you to follow your dream in Europe?
Spencer: To be honest, I feel that I have it in my heart. Paris Saint-Germain Academy taught me how to listen to the coaches, adapt and play faster. It was an excellent introduction and perfect transition to go further, play in Europe and follow my dreams.
What are your objectives, or dreams for the future?
Spencer: Obviously, everyone’s dream is to become a professional player. At least everyone that I know. But the problem is that in the U.S., the level is so low compared to Europe. It makes it almost impossible to progress and receive exposure to professional clubs, especially European clubs. Chances are definitely higher in Europe with the methodology, the coaches, and the competition. Obviously, I know that it is not going to be easy, and the first steps are to get better as a player and as a person.
Why did you pick ICEF?
Spencer: Frankly coming from the Paris Saint-Germain Academy training, it was the obvious choice. I was guided by my coaches here in Florida and I had the opportunity to test the center before registering. But the main reason would probably be the level of expertise of the coaches in Europe.
Spencer’s Mother: It is a great experience. Even if he does not make it as a professional player, he will definitely grow and mature as a person. There are many other options offered than becoming a player, he can be a UEFA certified coach or prepare for a Bachelors in Sports Marketing or Sports Management.
We understand that next season is very peculiar due to Covid-19. Was it hard for you to make the decision to enroll him?
Spencer’s Mother: It is not hard actually, because I know how passionate he is and how happy he will be. Europe is doing a much better job than the U.S. right now. They are already in phase-3, so I am not scared. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I don’t want him to miss it for anything in the world. On the contrary, I am excited for him to have this experience and feel very confident. I am just a bit nervous about the visa, as it is taking more time than usual but we were approved so it is just a matter of days now to be cleared.
Don’t get me wrong, we will miss him a lot, but it is for his future and we will adapt and the whole family will come visit the Geneva area once flight traffic is back to normal.
What about you Spencer, how do you feel right now?
Spencer: I feel good, pretty excited but at the same time, I feel nervous for all the sacrifices that I am about to make.
What kind of sacrifices?
Spencer: Leaving my friends for instance, and my family. I am trying to maximize the time I spend with them before leaving. But anyhow, I know that I have to make these sacrifices for better opportunities in Europe. I am preparing. It is going to be an adjustment, but for the better.
Are you concerned about your academic education while at ICEF?
Spencer: Not at all. I take school very seriously and have been able to easily match my curriculum with the one offered at ICEF (partnering with University of Texas High School). My only concern was to lose a year, but the good thing is that the whole year will be accredited, and I will be able to pursue my academic path upon my return to the U.S.
Do you speak any French?
Spencer: Actually yes, in prevision of my year abroad, I have started to take French classes at my school, and I speak the fundamentals. Not much for now. I understand it better than I speak, but I feel confident in my ability to catch up fast once at the center. I am looking forward to actually improving in French.
Is there anything that you would like to inform anyone who is contemplating registering to a Pro Soccer Academy in Europe?
Spencer: My advice would be to not lose time and don’t wait to be too old to go there. I am happy with the training received at Paris Saint-Germain Academy Florida. However, I know it will take me faster to the next level to train in Europe.
Spencer’s Mother: I think if you have doubts, the best way is to try it out. Spencer spent a week at the center over the summer and everything was clear after that. You will know if your son likes it and it will give you the time to organize and the will to enroll him abroad.
We wish Spencer an excellent experience at the International Center of European Football. For the peace of mind of his family, a chaperone selected by ICEF will accompany him from Miami International Airport to the Center, as we understand that travels are currently very restricted for parents coming from the U.S.
If you are an elite soccer player born between 1997 and 2009, you can try out to join the International Center of European Football for the 2020 – 2021 season and enroll to the 10-month program kicking-off on August 24th.