CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy would like to one day have a first team made up primarily of graduates from the LA Galaxy Academy and this week, the club took a major step towards achieving that goal.
The Galaxy’s new high school called the Blended Learning Environment opened its doors on Monday to 50 students of various high school grade levels who will make up the club’s U-16 and U-18 academy sides.
During the first week, the students were immersed in a professional environment. Whether it was an impromptu meeting with Alan Gordon at lunch or a talk with Steven Gerrard on the importance of playing for your boyhood club, the new program has already hit the ground running.
“It’s representative of a lot of people and a lot of work. We’ve put tremendous amount of resources in this,” Academy Director Peter Vagenas told LAGalaxy.com. “Obviously, seeing the sheer excitement and enthusiasm of not only the kids but the staff and the club has definitely generated a different buzz having our academy kids here throughout the day.
“It is the goal of any academy within in a club is to push a large number of kids into our first team and that is something that we are genuine in terms of our efforts,” he added. “We are in the ideal place to do this and in the right environment, it’s just a matter of getting it done, obviously getting kids immersed in a professional culture from 8am we believe will expedite that process.”
Like the rest of the students returning to school in the early fall, the members of the Blended Learning Environment are provided with the same type of educational opportunities as the rest of their peers—albeit with an extra emphasis on the beautiful game.
In the morning, the students train shortly after arriving at 8am and are then provided lunch before beginning several hours of classes led by specially hired faculty. After their classes, the program offers a flex time that allows the students to focus on school assignments or receive additional conditioning or technical work on the practice field.
By 5pm, the students are dismissed and allowed a luxury not previously given—the chance to spend the evening with their families. And after just one week, Vagenas is already starting to see the fruits of the Academy’s labors.
“On different levels, the feedback has been tremendous. I have players coming up to me randomly expressing their gratitude and thanks for what we’re attempting to do on the footballing side of things but also to our holistic approach to their kids, and we’re offering with their school,” Vagenas said. “We are going to hold them to high standards because, at the end of the day, our goal is to produce fine young men. You can see that on the surface and I think families and parents ultimately see that.”
Ultimately, for Vagenas and the rest of the Galaxy academy, the students of the new Blended Learning Environment are just another piece in the puzzle to creating the finest academy in the entire United States.
“From Bruce Arena on down, we are locked into this project not for the short term which what separates us,” Vagenas said. “We are locked into this for three, five, 10, 15 years to shift the mentality and culture so that 10 years from now, we’re able to see a first team that contains seven or nine players produced from an Academy. We wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t certain that we could accomplish this.”