The 2020 7 Elite Academy tryouts got under way in Southern Utah with a 30% rise in player numbers, as youth soccer returned after Covid-19 restrictions were partially lifted.
Last week's sessions in Saint George attracted hundreds of new players – both returning and new – with all attendees required to follow responsible social distancing guidelines.
Those guidelines under Utah's 'Yellow' restrictions included hand sanitiser available at all times, masks to be worn by coaches at appropriate times and no large gatherings of parents on site.
The rules will continue to be followed closely when tryouts move to the Salt Lake and Northern Utah regions from June 8th.
Daren Woolstenhume, CEO at 7 Elite Academy, said: “We have worked closely with our colleagues at UYSA and other safety organisations to make sure tryouts are run with the safety of players, coaching staff and parents as a priority.
“This responsible attitude was reflected in the numbers of young people who chose to try out with us in Saint George last week and will hopefully continue in our other Utah regions from June 8th.
“We offered existing 7 Elite Academy players an automatic return for next season, following weeks of Covid-19 restrictions, so the fact that we still had a 30% rise in attendees is very encouraging.
“Our training curriculum offers opportunities to play and train with professional clubs overseas, so these tryouts are an excellent way for Utah players to take the next step in their career.
“I am excited for the year ahead, both as an organisation with teams in the US, UK and Africa, and for the players who are eager to get back to playing games.”
7 Elite Academy ran a Home Technical Program of training during the Covid-19 lockdown, as well as remote team meetings, one-to-one sessions and Masterclass sessions with professional players.
Those sessions were designed to offer young people across the world a unique insight into the top-flight game, as well as support for players and their communities.
Stuart Dewey, Technical Co-Ordinator for Southern Utah at 7 Elite Academy, said: “Like everyone, I was excited to get back to the training pitches last week, but that was tempered by a need to protect our staff, players and their families in a responsible manner.
“It was noticeable that everyone who attended tryouts last week followed the restrictions and I would like to thank them all for that. The players showed a very professional attitude.
“We had some extremely talented players show off their skills and we will have some great teams next season. They will have opportunities to not only develop within soccer, but also as good young people.
“I am looking forward to seeing our tryouts start in the rest of Utah on June 8th, which will give even more youngsters the chance to benefit from our training and educational programs.
“I am particularly pleased that so many players are coming from our Pre-Academy, which is co-ordinated by Matt Brown up north and Juli Nield and Laura Evans in the south. It shows that more and more families are realising the benefits of working within our structured educational pathway.”
"A big THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this years tryouts a massive success"