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Local academy looks to build the next generation of soccer superstars
Central Valley Futbol
The 9-year-old boys team was the inaugural soccer club for Eddy Salinas' Central Valley Futbol Academy and have now played together for four years. Together they have won numerous championships using Salinas' unique approach to coaching (Photo contributed).

Turlock’s Eddy Salinas is looking to build the next generation of soccer players through the Central Valley Fútbol Academy. Founded in 2018, the academy has competed throughout the western region of the United States, winning multiple championships and helping players develop their skills well enough to move onto the next levels of the sport.

The journey to creating a soccer academy in Turlock stemmed from Salinas’ own experiences as a soccer player. After growing up in the Bay Area, he quickly noticed that there was a striking difference in how soccer was viewed in Turlock.

“I was born and raised in the Bay Area and played out there with the Redwood City Juventus Academy, which is a pretty big program,” Salinas said. “When I moved out here [to Turlock] with my family, it was just a big culture shock. Soccer wasn't really popular here. It wasn’t that big of a deal and there weren’t a lot of opportunities.”

Around that same time, Salinas found himself playing in Mexico for the Chivas reserve team. The international experience also made him realize that there were the large and critical differences in how young players were taught the game.

“I was out there for like a year and I got to go train, try out and I got to live there for a year. In doing so, I kind of got to observe how they develop players and how they bring players up,” he said. “It's a professional team, so their goal is how many players can they develop. For them, it's not about winning or losing games, it's about how many players can they develop to the first team. That's an investment.”

When starting up his academy in 2018, Salinas wanted to make that same investment for local children.

“I wanted to create a program where it has that same philosophy where we focus on player development and figure out how many players can we get to the next level,” Salinas said. “We created a program here in the Valley for those kids to reach their highest potential, whatever that potential may be.”

Salinas added that, in most countries, children are taught to practice playing 4 on 4 matchups so that they can gain experience with handling the ball. Meanwhile in the United States, many children are immediately thrown into 7 on 7 practices, which can create hectic environments. He noted that it may be difficult for parents to trust such a different philosophy when it comes to developing their children. At first, there were only about 15 to 20 children enrolled into the academy, but as the original group of boys began producing championships, it proved that Salinas’ approach to the game was effective. Today there are now over 100 players in several different age groups, including the recent introduction of girls teams.

Debbie Margison Allen, enrolled her son, Sebastian, in the academy in its inaugural year of 2018. She was one of the few parents who understood and appreciated the unique approach that Salinas was implementing at the academy.

“I played, my husband played, so the game is just really important to us and has always been a big part of our lives,” Margison Allen said. “Eddy spoke to me and my husband, Mark, and we spoke about methodology and how he plans on developing players, so the technical aspect of the game is very important to me.”

Cesar Bravo also found value for his son, Gael. Growing up in Mexico and playing soccer his entire childhood, Bravo shared in Salinas’ core belief that development for young children takes priority over wins, losses, trophies and banners.

“The coach’s philosophy about development was great. This is the first time where the coach not only focuses on the physical part of the game, but the mental side as well. He’s taught them to develop things like confidence. That's what drew us to this,” Bravo explained.

While wins and losses have not been made the priority when helping the players develop, Salinas explained that the personal and team accomplishments have come naturally as a result of the unique coaching approach. Since 2018, the now 9-year-old boys team have won a total of 12 state and international tournaments, including the Northern California State Cup, the Las Vegas Mayors Cup and the San Jose Regional Futsal championship.

Aster Aushay’s son, Aushay, is also enrolled in the academy. She expressed her appreciation to the academy for giving kids like hers an opportunity to build strong bonds through playing alongside one another and traveling together for their tournaments.

“We have a small family, he doesn't have a lot of cousins or other young kids that he's around, but he's close to the team,” she explained. “They’ve been together for a long time and he loves it.”

Sandi DeRose, whose son Carter is also a member of the academy, shared similar sentiments regarding the family-oriented atmosphere that Salinas has created.

“All of these boys have been playing with each other since they were five, now they are all turning 9 and their relationship on and off the field is something truly special,” DeRose said. “These kids are representing the Central Valley incredibly.”

While the boys have caught the eyes of local parents, they have also caught the attention of professional organizations. According to Salinas, Major League Soccer teams like the San Jose Earthquakes and Sacramento Republic FC have inquired about recruiting some of the 9-year-olds to their own academies.

“Many kids in this area didn’t have this opportunity to play in an academy or be exposed to other cities until this group came along. What they’ve done with this academy is awesome,” Bravo said.

“Eddy and the whole team have done some special things together,” Margison Allen added. “We feel really lucky if not blessed. It’s been really good for our boys, they’re a strong group.”