May 11, 2012
This weekend, nearly 100 spectators will be in at the Batavia Sports Park to watch an anticipated 800 boys and girls high-school soccer players -- the premier players in the region -- display their skills at the 6th Annual Empire Cup College Showcase.
From a press release:
Similar events are held annually in places like Ohio, Florida, Maryland and Nevada.
"It's not something that we invented obviously, but we've been sending teams all over for college showcases, and about five years ago we thought it was time to have one in Western New York," tournament Director Michael Henderson said.
The timing must have been right. Henderson, a high-school coach himself in Rochester, said the recruiter turnout was beyond what was originally expected.
"It's nice for the coaches, because for them, it's relatively local," said Henderson. "They don't have to travel as far either."
Due in part to the tournament's connection to college coaching circles, it has taken major steps in aiding the recruiters ability to see who they want, and when.
Prior to the start of the weekend, each participating player has the option of filling out an online profile. That, in turn, gives the recruiting coaches an idea of each player's personal feelings about school, including what they want to study and what their soccer ambitions are.
Also, the form allows for players to submit GPA numbers and other pertinent test scores such as the SAT or ACT, giving the coaches an advanced screening as to whether or not certain players have the grades to get in.
"It helps tremendously knowing that going into the tournament," Henderson said. "You may see some great players, but at the end of the day, they may not by able to get into your school. Obviously you are looking for good athletic ability and game understanding, but it has to be a fit with your college."
To go with that, tournament organizers were overly stringent on who was going to be playing. As youth soccer goes, this field ended up being extremely competitive and draws teams from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Vermont, as well as New York and Canada.
Forty-six premier teams will compete, and many were turned away.
"We didn't accept everybody," says Henderson. "This is somewhat an elite tournament. It's for the kids that are serious about going on and playing in college."
"We have the interest, we have the need and we have the facility," Henderson said. "I'm pretty sure we'll do this again next year, and hopefully for many years to come."