Club Athletes of the Month: September

David Fiflis ‘15 and Alex Contreras ‘16 won’t be suiting up for LT’s soccer squad this year. Instead, they’re joining Christian Sanchez ‘16 on the Chicago Fire Youth Soccer Club, a prestigious team which serves some of the best athletes in the state.

Due to Illinois High School Association athletics guidelines, students in a club sport may not participate in a school-sponsored sport during the season. Therefore, playing for LT this year is out of the question; however, each of the three athletes agree that playing for the Fire Juniors is an opportunity they can’t pass up.

“I want to play college soccer, and the coaches and [opportunities here] are incomparable,” goalkeeper Fiflis said.

The program boasts multiple coaches, most with professional playing experience and some with coaching experience at Division I colleges and major soccer clubs around the nation. The practice facilities and management are also unparalleled, center-midfielder Contreras said.

“The Academy’s very professional,” Contreras said. They have hundreds of balls, practice uniforms, five trainers are there watching, [and] the intensity is very high.”

Fiflis and Contreras have only recently joined the Chicago Fire Juniors, while Sanchez has been a member of the team since eighth grade. Contreras said the July tryouts were incredibly intense and a bit nerve-racking, as 300 kids competed for two or three roster spots.

The environment in playing for a team like the Chicago Fire Juniors is much different than playing for a typical high school squad, according to defender Sanchez.

“Since they pay for all your stuff, they invest in you,” Sanchez said. “You’ve got to be prepared to work.”

Contreras said that the practices are all at a high intensity level, so if a player’s not ready to train that day, Head Coach Larry Sunderland won’t hesitate to kick them out of practice.

Although they’re not playing for LT’s squad this year, Sanchez and Contreras plan to finish off their senior years’ playing for LT after they gain knowledge and skill that the Academy provides. Fiflis, however, is currently in his senior year and will miss his final LT season as an eligible high school player.

“I think you get a better experience with high school sports,” Fiflis said. “It’s still very competitive and you have a good time. The environment of [the Academy] is really serious – it’s more of a job.”

For all three athletes, one of the major factors driving their decision to play for the Academy is to draw scouting attention in order to play at the next level. The players participate in competitive tournaments against some of the best teams in the country, with college scouts attending most, if not all events. According to its website, the Chicago Fire Youth Soccer Club has a 100% college placement rate for eighteen year old players who want to play college soccer.

“Long-term I want to play Division I and get a scholarship,” Contreras said. [The Academy’s] a pretty big deal. It’s not like a hobby, I have to take it pretty serious.”