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Higgins Picks Up Prestigious NSCAA High School All-American Honors
What catches the eye about Kyle Higgins’ 2013 soccer year are his staggering offensive statistics. Higgins’ 17 goals and 10 assists helped lead the U18 Boys Strikers team to a 23-3-3 record and a second place finish at US Club Soccer’s Northwest Regional Tournament. And he followed up his club soccer season with 21 goals for the Hellgate High School varsity team in the fall. The latter achievement not only led the Montana high school league and set the Knights school record for goals in a season, but it recently earned Higgins 2013 All-American honors as announced by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
But what makes Higgins one of the nation’s best performers? For his club and high school coaches, there are numerous reasons. “He has an uncanny ability to find the back of the net,” says Higgins’ high school coach, and Strikers Academy Director, Jay Anderson. “Kyle is a tremendous finisher in front of the goal or outside the box.”
Strikers’ U18 Boys coach, Geoff Birnbaum, agrees. “And Kyle is more than a goal scorer. As our target player he had to absorb physical pressure and contact and receive, control and distribute the ball to start our attack. He was our metronome, setting the speed and rhythm of our play. When that is set right, and he often set that, we were one of the most explosive teams I have ever coached.”
Higgins adds his name to an impressive list of players who have received the NSCAA's prestigious award (handed out to only the top 60 high school players in the country each year) that includes current US National Team members Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Maurice Edu, Alejandro Bedoya and Eric Licaj, a large number of current MLS players and, notably, Champions League finalist and Borussia Dortmund star center back Nevin Subotic.
Can Higgins achieve similar heights in the game? Birnbaum is a believer. “Becoming a great player is more than natural talent. Kyle lived with a soccer ball, touching the ball thousands of times outside of training. Kyle is also a student of the game and a coachable player open to direction. Add to that the character formed by dedicated parents and a close family that made for the balance needed in his life and you have an All-American player and an All-American kid.”
Strikers' Alumnus Keane Hamilton Set to Take On Coaching Director Role
Keane Hamilton knows what it takes to create a winning program. After all, the Missoula native and Big Sky High School grad captained soccer powerhouse Fort Lewis College during a successful collegiate playing career in which he led the Skyhawks to a national championship in 2009. Four years later, Hamilton hopes that he can translate what he has learned about building and maintaining a successful program to his hometown club, as he takes over Strikers' Director of Coaching role.
For Hamilton, Strikers should be the best club in the state and a top club in the region. “In five years, Missoula should be competing to be the best program in the state at every age group. With the number of kids in the Academy and Micro Strikers programs, along with the quality of coaches available in Missoula, we have the tools to be at the top of the state as well as to compete at the regional level.”
How will the club get there? Hamilton believes the key is instilling a competitive attitude. “The development of young players starts with the club encouraging players to make a strong commitment to training and constantly pushing themselves and their teammates in practice. Also, teams should continually push themselves and play against higher level players. This means going to tournaments out of state, playing the top teams in the state, anything that gets the kids outside their comfort zone and pushes for improvement. Finally, the club must encourage young players to watch more soccer. This includes older club teams, college games, and especially professional games. Players should watch the game at its highest level for motivation and learning purposes.”
Hamilton is the first to acknowledge that his youth soccer experience was the key to his own college success.
“Growing up playing soccer in Missoula – YMCA, Micro Strikers, and finally to Strikers from age 12 to 14 – I loved it. I had great teammates and coaches all the way through. Seeking additional challenges at age 15, I played up on the U16 FC Missoula team. From age 16 through 19, I played with the U19 Strikers. Playing with and against seniors in high school as well as college players when I was 16 was a fantastic challenge. Getting to play up against players that were much bigger and more experienced than me pushed me to improve and was the reason for much of my success at the college level.”
Hamilton’s plan for success:
1. Develop goals as an entire club so players, coaches, and parents can all work together to improve the level of soccer
2. Encourage the club to play a brand of soccer that focuses on intelligence and skills
3. Encourage a team atmosphere throughout the entire club, not just within individual teams
Hamilton knows he needs to start his tenure as DOC by hitting the ground running, as tryouts for Strikers were last week.