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South Valley Journal

Utah Soccer Alliance makes mark in spanning club soccer scene

Jul 22, 2021 11:56AM ● By Josh Martinez

Utah Soccer Alliance offers club soccer teams for a wide range of age groups. Many of these teams excel and are competitive such as the 2016 Adidas Cup Winners, which was the boys premier team for those born in 1998 and 1999. (Photo courtesy of Utah Soccer Alliance.)

By Josh Martinez | [email protected] 

Utah Soccer Alliance is concerned with more than how many championships its soccer teams win.

The Riverton-based soccer club features over 90 teams with more than 1,200 players ranging from ages 6–19. The club serves those who live in the south end of Salt Lake County as well as the Salt Lake City metro area.

With all these teams, Director of Coaching Dennis Burrows said the key focus for the club is development.

“Basically, we look to take players from when they’re young and give them a good soccer experience and teach them the ropes, teach them how to play the game, give them a lesson in soccer skills but also in life skills, push them to be the best people they can be and the best soccer players they can be,” he said.

Club soccer is a popular place for many youth athletes. US Youth Soccer, the largest youth soccer organization in the country, claims it registers about 3 million kids each year, while the American Youth Soccer Organization’s website states it has more than 400,000 players on its affiliated clubs.

At Utah Soccer Alliance, an affiliate of US Youth Soccer, there are programs for those of all skill and commitment levels. 

The premier teams are the highest level of competition and require a high level of commitment. On the other end, there are other levels for those who need to improve their skill levels and who may be playing multiple sports.

Other programs include academy teams for younger athletes as they grow in their abilities and a pre-academy for the youngest athletes as they develop a love for the game.

Furthermore, the club also is home to the Utah Red Devils, an women’s amateur team that competes in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

All these teams and development opportunities, Burrows said, are aimed at helping athletes achieve their goals by putting them in the right position.

“What we like to look at it as is we’ll put you in a situation where you have the skills or you’re given the opportunity to learn the skills and the life lessons to be a productive member of a college team, of a higher level regional or national squad or maybe a professional squad,” he said. “We look to be well-rounded with our players, not just raffle them into a position at a young age.”

Hailey Povilus joined Utah Soccer Alliance about five years ago. Over those five years, she had developed both technically and in her confidence, culminating in her joining the women’s soccer team at the University of Utah.

Her father, Eric Povilus, largely credits Utah Soccer Alliance for helping her grow and helping her obtain her dream of playing collegiate soccer.

But it wasn’t only as a soccer player. Eric said he loved how supported his daughter felt in pursuit of her academics and college preparations.

“She never felt like she would be penalized if she missed a game or anything for a school activity or school task,” he said. “There’s a lot of clubs in the Salt Lake area where that’s not the case.”

While the club tries its best to be accommodating, there still is a tricky tightrope to walk between club and high school soccer.

The club soccer season features a fall and a spring portion. For high school, girls soccer is in the fall, while boys soccer is in the spring.

Burrows said a big concern is overworking between the two factions. This concern is larger with girls, he said, because they have a more intense work up in the summer while the boys can’t do as much to lead up to their high school season with the winter months.

Burrows said there is some progress being made to help both sides cohabit the soccer environment but there’s still some work to do. One such example, Burrows said, is the Utah High School Activities Association allowing student-athletes to play in showcases during the high school season.

Differences between the two also extend into recruiting. At Utah Soccer Alliance, there are numerous tools to help athletes find the best fit for the next level.

Along with methods to help players find the best fit school, Burrows said the club places a lot of emphasis on putting players in front of scouts through tournaments and showcases.

Burrows said while he and the club take pride in helping athletes obtain their goals, he’s careful not to take too much credit in the process.

“It’s not a recognition thing for us as a club, more as that’s our job to get out and show them to the coaches and give them an opportunity to be seen,” he said.

When Hailey Povilus was looking to play in college, she started to tell the Utah Soccer Alliance coaches which schools she was targeting. Eric Povilus said when this communication started, the club coaches would offer to reach out for her or help in other ways.

This communication, Eric said, would help college coaches know all they need to and they could better assess Hailey’s skills.

Furthermore, Eric said club coaches would spend a lot of time pitching athletes to desired colleges and help coaches better understand the athletes both during and after matches.

“There’s a lot of time spent calling all these coaches before these tournaments and showcases,” he said. “You go to a showcase over a three-day weekend, coaches from a Pac-12 school or an SEC school can only go to so many games so they place their bets on who they want to see, they just don’t randomly show up.”

Burrows said he knows college coaches try to be economical in their approach to finding athletes. He said they’re more likely to show up at a showcase where they can see numerous players rather than a high school where they can see one or two.

“How much recruitment happens solely through high school? I don’t think it really exists on the soccer side,” he said. “I know in football and basketball, it’s different, but on the soccer side, it’s just that way.”

While Utah Soccer Alliance can offer a lot of benefits, there are some concerns such as costs. Costs can hover between $2,000 to $3,000 after participation and uniform fees. That doesn’t include all other traveling expenses required for out-of-state competitions.

Burrows said there are financial aid options and other help, but he does acknowledge it can be a lot for some families. What he also said is the club is worth the investment because of the offerings and the high-caliber coaches help athletes along their development.

“The bang for the buck is actually really good for club soccer,” he said. “If they were to pay a babysitter for the time they have their kids away from them, it would cost them triple what we charge. You look at it, and I think we’re giving them a good service, teaching them a nice game, a nice life lesson atmosphere, which I think is important and helps parents.”