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Three LIJSL Players Qualify for Red Bulls RDS Academy

The Long Island Regional Development School (RDS), hosted and sponsored by Long Island Junior Soccer League, hasprovided fully funded, high-end training to Long Island's most talented soccer players for the past three years. Established in the fall of 2010, the Long Island RDS has attracted LIJSL's elite, and provided a unique environment that allows the top players from each team to receive additional technical instruction to supplement their existing team training without conflicting with their regular team commitments.

Open to boys and girls aged 8 to 14, the program embraces a large spectrum of children, catering to players at a crucial time of their technical, tactical, and physical development. Over 300 players have benefitted from this cost free training by taking part in three full seasons of training each year, throughout the fall, winter, and spring.

The primary objective of the RDS is to develop those players already at an advanced level of soccer, and to provide an environment where each player can fulfill their natural potential and maximize their progression within the game. However, an additional goal of the RDS is to provide a platform for the truly gifted players to progress to Red Bulls Academy, the nation's number 1 academy system, and the region's only academy with links to a professional Major League Soccer team.

Progress took time, and in the first year of operation one player from the Long Island RDS made the step to Red Bulls Academy. The class of 2011 took a stride further, graduating two players to the academy team. This year, the graduating class of 2012 proved to be the most talented and successful to date, providing the academy with 3 of its 18 newest recruits, almost one fifth of the entire roster.

The three members of the Long Island RDS to make the successful transition to the academy were Thriston Briscoe (HBC Allstars), Nick Kellarakos (HBC Venom), and Kevin Alvarado (NHP Leopards). Despite all coming through the same program to academy prominence, each took a slightly different path.

Briscoe was an RDS original and was successful in his first tryout for the RDS in the fall of 2010 as a nine year old. Already incredibly athletic for his age, Briscoe showed the pace, power, and desire to succeed within soccer. He went on to participate in the RDS for the next three years, earning selection to the Red Bulls Showcase Tournament teams each year. The opportunity to play with Red Bulls showcase tournament teams opened further doors, as he was identified as one of the top 2000 players in the region, and invited to participate in training sessions with the US National pool for the region.

"When I went to my first RDS try out, I was nervous," Briscoe explained. "But then I started playing, showing off my skill, and scoring goals. My RDS coach taught me how to play striker, and he is one of the main reasons I am good at soccer. When I saw the email (notifying acceptance into the team) I was so excited, because I had always dreamed of playing for Red Bulls."

Like Briscoe, Alvarado had participated in the RDS since its inception. Unlike Briscoe, however, Alvarado's game was not about raw strength and power. Instead, he demonstrated a technical proficiency, speed of play, and a creative mind that allowed him to excel within his age group, despite being one of the smaller players. Alvarado also benefited from his pedigree – his brother, Carlos, was one of the two Long Island RDS players selected for the academy 1999 team the previous year.
Kevin's continued excellence in the RDS, along with the fact that his brother was already a member of the team afforded him the opportunity to participate in academy training a year early with exceptional results. His performance in academy training sessions convinced academy coaches that he was a lock for the 2000 team a year early, and his place was secured ahead of time.

"When I made it into the RDS I was so happy to be able to show the coaches what I was able to do," he said. "Every Tuesday night I would get done with my homework early so I could be ready to go to RDS training. When the 1999 team coach saw me playing with my brother, he asked me to join the team. I was shocked, but thrilled."

Kellarakos' story is one that many players should find inspirational, as it is a reassuring case study for so many players who are not successful in their first try out for the program. Kellarakos attended try outs for the 2010, and 2011 programs, and like the majority of the 500 applicants each year, was not successful. He would not take no for an answer though, and not only continued to participate in the RDS via the open-registration summer camp in Long Island, but made the long trip to NJ each week to participate in the RDS there (as the program is not fully funded outside of Long Island, the number of applicants is considerably smaller, and therefore the chances of acceptance much higher). His determination and persistence paid off. Despite not being part of the Long Island 2000 boys group, he was still identified as a potential candidate for the Academy, and the pieces fell into place from there.

"I did the RDS summer camps after I tried out for the seasonal training and was placed as an alternate" Kellarakos said. "Iwould like to thank my family. They convinced me to try out when I wasn't sure I wanted to. They believed in me, and I did it for them. Eventually, hard work does pay off!"

"Nico is a great kid with a burning desire to learn the game of soccer and be the best he could be," added Ronan Wiseman, Director of the LIJSL PDP Program, where Kellarakos also plays.  I am sure he will keep challenging himself in his quest to become one of the best soccer players in the country.The sky is the limit for Nico.  He's skillful, intelligent, creative, and capable of holding his own in any position."

Now entering its fourth year, try-outs for the Long Island Regional Development School were once again a hot ticket item. On-line registration opened to the public at 9:00am on Friday, August 30th, and all 500 avaiable spots were filled in the first three hours!  For those accepted, the RDS features 18 weeks of cost-free supplementary training, all on Tuesday evenings, at a range of central Long Island locations.

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