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Soccer academy moves forward under new ownership

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A new school that combines intensive soccer training and academics will open in Brandon this month, but it won't be run by Pro Pathways Center of Excellence.

The private academy, which had been recruiting players for the school since March, pulled out of the venture in early August when it failed to secure enough student-athletes.

"It was a tough decision," said Ryan Maloney, head of Pro Pathways, which operates a similar school in Palm Coast. "I didn't think we could offer the level of excellence expected, and we didn't want to cut corners."

But the 15 student-athletes who were accepted to the program will still have their dreams of attending a European-style sports academy fulfilled. Well-known local soccer coach Bryn Lloyd, whom Maloney had selected to run the Brandon academy, has launched a replacement school with Maloney's blessing.

The new school, which will be called the Academy of Soccer, will hold classes at the Regent, Hillsborough Community College's satellite campus in Brandon. Students will still take classes through Florida Virtual School, but also will use the academic resources of HCC, such as computer labs, library and tutors. There also will be two staff facilitators on hand to assist and tutor students who might need extra help.

"From the academic standpoint, that's huge," said Lloyd, who was a coach in the 1990s at Chelsea FC Academy in the United Kingdom, which serves as the recruiting and training facility for the professional Chelsea Football Club.

"Now, we're housed in a college building, so they (the students) get insight into college life."

A general day will allow students to spend three hours working on soccer skills in the morning, take classes in the afternoon and then practice after classes at the school or with independent traveling teams.

The new school will run as a 501(c)(3), which will enable Lloyd to seek local sponsorships and create fundraisers. It also will offer six-week, fee-based "soccer labs" for players who aren't attending the school to improve their skills.

Currently, 15 student-athletes in fifth through eighth grades are scheduled to enroll in the Academy of Soccer, and Lloyd will utilize a rolling admissions process, which means qualified students can join the academy any time throughout the school year.

Parents such Jon Davis, whose son, Tyler, will attend the academy, say the changes have been positive.

"Unfortunately, it didn't work out (with Pro Pathways)," Davis said. "But Bryn grabbed the ball, and in a span of 24 hours, we went from nothing to having a better situation.

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