Young fans of "the beautiful game" will have the opportunity to be trained alongside professional soccer players this spring with the startup of a new youth club in the region.
When it’s time to hang up the cleats, professional footballers often remain active in the sport in some capacity.
But and D.C. United sensation Santino Quaranta don’t want to wait until the end of their careers to share their skills.
The pair have been working for the past few months to develop a new nonprofit youth soccer organization—while still in the prime of their respective careers.
It’s a rare move for players to devote so much time and energy to “giving back” to the would-be soccer stars of tomorrow while still nurturing their own careers.
Rush, a Cockeysville resident, is actively involved with his team in Portugal, G.D. Ribeirão.
Quaranta, a Perry Hall resident who grew up in Baltimore, is training to solidify a place on the U.S. national team.
But when the two childhood friends were talking about five months ago, they realized they shared a vision for what has become The Pipeline Soccer Club. As of Monday, the organization has added three teams to the club’s roster and will start training in the spring, Rush said.
Rush and Quaranta both signed professional contracts at ages 18 and 16, respectively, and now hope to teach children about their insights and in-depth knowledge of successful training methods.
“There are a lot of great teams now, a lot of great clubs, but there’s no development academies the way that they are set up in Europe,” Rush said, referring to Portugal's youth clubs.
“In the states, people lose sight of having fun and enjoying it as well,” Quaranta said. “In Europe you instill confidence in these kids, they enjoy it and they have the passion to go on.”
Both Rush and Quaranta have coached at the youth level. Quaranta has coached a host of youth camps, while Rush .
“I was just a volunteer up there …. I fell in love after a day,” Rush said.
Pipeline was born shortly thereafter.
Quaranta said it has always been a dream of his to give back to young players.
“Being able to give back to the kids and seeing their faces has been really fulfilling to me. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in my own career. Sometimes you lose sight of giving back to the game,” Quaranta said.
Among the many resources touted by Pipeline board members is an impressive list of coaches, many who have either played or coached either professionally or in college. (You can see a full list of the Pipeline coaching staff here.)
Joining the fold is Dylan Curtis, a United States Soccer Federation license holder, who will also handle training and development.
“This is our life,” Curtis said. “This is what Sean and Santino have done for their entire careers. … It’s just an extra gear that I don’t think many clubs have. I don’t think that it can be matched.”
Though the promise of high-quality training is key, the other fundamental aspect of Pipeline is that children enjoy the game. Rush and Quaranta expressed their own issues of becoming burnt out in the past.
“His old man, and my old, they take soccer very seriously. And I know we didn’t want to play anymore,” Rush said.
Curtis, who ended his career before playing in college, recognizes that pushing a young player too hard can lead to disenchantment.
“I was just tired of it. … What I want to put in is competitiveness, a desire to win, but at the same time, an environment for kids to make mistakes—because they are kids. I want to allow them to try new things, allow them to not have to apologize,” Curtis said.
Three teams will launch in the spring at the under-9, under-10 and under-11 age groups, along with two development academies already in the works.
Pipeline will be drawing from areas like Loch Raven, Perry Hall, Hereford, Owings Mills and Columbia.
In the future, once the young players become showcase-ready, Pipeline will split the teams into different performance categories, according to skill levels.
Pipeline has taken criticism from competing clubs for its not-for-profit status and the questioning of a professional soccer player’s extracurricular commitment.
Anticipated costs to players who join Pipeline will be for jerseys, travel and tournament expenses and coaching fees, while the administrative board will not make money.
Rush, who has been sidelined from his club in Portugal from an injury while awaiting surgery, has been able to speed up the process of formulating teams. But for Quaranta, the question of commitment is a valid one, considering the D.C. United striker’s responsibilities as a team captain and his unyielding desire to play for the national team.
“If I’m sticking my neck out to do something like this, I’m all in. I don’t want to be just an outside face that stands on the outside with my arms crossed,” Quaranta said. “I want to be hands on with these kids. I think that’s where they seem to be the most happy.”
Rush expects eight to 10 teams will be ready for training by August.
“We’re ready to go,” he said.
Added Quaranta: “This is our life.”