What is a Gap Year?
Gap years are typically year-long breaks that students take either before or after their university experience. During this time, students may participate in travel, volunteer work or other activities.
Several companies have designed soccer-related training abroad programs around student gap years. These experiences allow high school students a chance to live, train and play soccer in a foreign country.
AIC (Italian Soccer School) in Assisi, ltaly offers programs for both girls and boys. Bruno Redolfi, the Director, only takes a select few students on each year. His students reside and study at a local boarding school, the Convitto Nazionale, Principe di Napoli. Bruno assesses players and places them on appropriate local teams to fit their level. Additionally, they receive individualized training sessions with him and his staff. My son attended Bruno’s program when he was fifteen. You can learn more about his experiences on this blog.
If you are seeking a larger program, Jared also attended FC Malaga City Academy in Andalucia, Spain. George Jermy, the Director has built regional level teams within his club. These allow the players to work and train with other young players from around the world. They live, train and play together. This program also caters to both boys and girls soccer.
Eture is an interesting program. They started as a US college recruiting program for players who were dropped from La Liga clubs. I do not have personal knowledge of their program but have had a few parents who have children there reach out to me.
Where Can I Find Companies that Offer Soccer Gap Year Programs?
Click here for a list of companies that offer international gap year for athletes soccer programs.
Initially, many of these programs were primarily geared towards boys soccer; however, as interest in girls soccer is growing, more and more of these programs now offer training for young women as well.
The benefits to training abroad extend far beyond just the soccer training – earning a foreign language, developing independence, resilience and a gaining better understanding of other cultures and what it is like to live in another country. Lifelong friendships can be made through these shared experiences.
Assisi, Italy AIC (Italian Soccer School) operates out of Assisi.
Several programs boast of placing their players on local league teams. This gives young players who are placed in these leagues the benefit of playing against older, stronger players. The speed of play is much faster than what most American youth are used to in their clubs back home.
It is always a benefit to train with players who are stronger and faster. For the player who hopes to return to the US and apply for a college team and possible scholarship, the experience can be of great benefit to their game.
Other programs are large enough that they form their own teams that then travel to play games against local teams. Some of these programs provide ongoing study abroad programs as well.
Benefits of Gap Year for Players Who Want to Play Professional Soccer
For the more serious player who wants to become a professional soccer player, there are even more benefits to experiencing a gap year abroad. Playing abroad will not only give better tactical and technical training but can help a player identify the level at which they actually perform.
Gap year soccer programs can also provide alternative routes for players who want to become professional soccer players. Here, in the US, most aspiring players play for college teams and hope to gain enough experience and strength over their undergraduate years to earn them a place on a professional or semi-professional team after graduation.
This differs from the European model. In Europe, most professional players are identified prior to University. In fact, some people still believe that if a player isnt on a team by the time they have reached the age of 22, they have lost their opportunity to play professionally.
Unfortunately, the same FIFA rules that were designed to protect Minors from exploitation end up making it nearly impossible for minors to obtain soccer training abroad unless they hold an EU passport. The status of being a student is the most common way around this, and many programs require only a language course to satisfy the educational requirement. You can learn more about exceptions to the FIFA Rules for Minors by clicking here.