Since its founding in 2011 the Gateway Soccer Association has been regarded as a well-run youth soccer program that gives our kids a chance to run around, have some fun and make new friends.

But recently the GSA has been making some new friends of its own by establishing formal working relationships with both the Southwest Florida Adrenaline and their Head Coach, ex-Premier League soccer star John Robinson.

To provide some background: the Premier League is the top professional soccer league in England and Wales and is arguably one of the best leagues on the planet. The Adrenaline are part of the Premier Development League which is where the top amateur players in the United States compete.

Although the names of the two leagues are similar they are not associated with each other.

When parents are looking for a youth soccer program to involve their children in one of the first things they look at is the experience and credibility of the staff involved.

Enter Robinson, who provides the GSA with a level of tactical knowledge and experience that’s unrivaled among youth soccer organizations in the area. Signing his first pro contract at 16 years old, Robinson’s career included 30 matches with the Welsh national team and over 400 matches in British professional soccer leagues. Along with coaching the Adrenaline, Robinson also operates John Robinson Soccer School.

As a former European top-league player, having Robinson involved in training its coaches and players makes him an enormously important resource for the GSA. Obviously it’s no wonder the GSA’s League Director Mark Allison is thrilled to be working with Robinson.

“John’s involvement brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that cannot be replicated. His ability to draw on this knowledge is self evident when viewing his interaction with the children during his training sessions. His experience is used in evaluating our players progression, and is passed onto each team’s coaching staff with the goal of improving everyone of our children involved in this program,” said Allison.

Those sentiments were echoed by SWFL Adrenaline President Jeff Butzke, who told the Sun: “Coach John Robinson has worked closely with the leadership of the Gateway Soccer Association to build a long term relationship that will ultimately result in young men and women achieving their soccer goals by receiving college scholarships or ultimately being chosen for a professional career.”

When speaking with parents who are trying to choose a youth soccer oganization, in the Fort Myers area only the GSA can say that it has a direct connection to a PDL team. Over 70% of players drafted by Major League Soccer teams have played in the PDL – which again is the league the Adrenaline are members of.

Commenting on his team’s commitment to youth soccer in our area, Butzke said, “The Adrenaline is excited about the continued growth of our partnership with the Gateway Soccer Association. We continue to add programs that will help the youth of the community enhance their soccer skills by the Adrenaline providing quality coaching and opportunities at the Gateway facility. This year we hope to add additional competitive teams from Gateway that will play in tournaments throughout the year.”

Allison agrees that working with the Adrenaline provided unique opportunities for GSA players.

“The main advantage of our relationship with the SWFL Adrenaline is the ability to allow players involved in our recreational program a progressional stepping stone towards improvement within the sport via professional coaching. With the goal being that these original recreational players will continue to improve their playing skills into competitive level players who can represent their high schools and with the hopes that they can also move onto a college level program,” said Allison.

It seems it’s only a matter of time before the first players trained by the Gateway Soccer Association are suiting up for PDL matches as members of the SWFL Adrenaline.

From that stepping stone, perhaps, the bright lights of professional soccer.

The Gateway Soccer Association reports that it had over 800 players participate in their 2014 fall season. Sign-ups for the 2015 spring season are underway at gatewaysoccer.com. For information about the SWFL Adrenaline, visit their website at swfladrenaline.com.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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