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Kickstarting dreams

Three Northwest students follow the Sporting KC Academy pathway to play professionally.

Sophomore Kyan Detmer moved more than 1,300 miles from Las Vegas to pursue his dream with the Sporting Kansas City Academy.

At five years old, Detmer began his soccer journey, starting with a recreation league team and later playing for the Las Vegas-based club, Heat FC. He said his dad, Phillip, previously played in Germany as a semi-professional player which inspired Detmer to follow a soccer pathway.

When Detmer was 12, he said a scout watched him play in a tournament, and he was recruited to play with Sporting.

The Academy consists of five teams (U-13, U-14, U-15, U-17, U-19) and the players can eventually join the Sporting KC first team without going through the MLS draft process, according to the SKC Academy website. Tryouts are held in May for the U-13 and U-14 teams. For others interested, candidates must complete a form for consideration. Their main way of inviting players is on a trial basis, identified through Sporting’s scouting network.

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Detmer is a full-time player with the U-15 and attends practice five times a week for two hours at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Mo. In a typical week, the team plays two games. With frequent traveling tournaments and a booked practice schedule, Detmer said he spends his spare time doing homework, whether that is waking up early before school, or using AST to kick out a chunk of homework.

If you really want it, you have to work and not get distracted. This is pretty hard for everyone because it’s a sacrifice, not only for me but also my parents.

— Ronald Lozano

“Usually, I get 30 minutes before I have to get ready and go to practice after school so I  try to do as much as I can,” Detmer said. “I get home at eight or nine and then finish my homework.”

Next year as a junior, Detmer said he has to drop out of sixth and seventh hour to get to practice on time. He said he plans to take virtual and summer courses to stay on an academic track.

Through this needed flexible schedule, Detmer said the continued support from his parents has made it possible to live his dream in KC.

“They did everything they could to help me get here. They were even willing to have me stay with a host family just to get me out to Kansas,” Detmer said.

The Detmer family moved to Overland Park, Kan. in July of 2022 right before Detmer’s freshman year at BVNW. Kori, his mom, said this move was challenging for him and the family.

“Moving was a lot of big firsts for him in high school with a larger school and new team,” Kori said. “It was a hard transition but as a family, we support each other and when we have big dreams, we will follow that.”

Detmer’s dad currently lives in Vegas but said he visits at least every other week to stay for the weekend.

Living a similar life, sophomore Will Gertner plays on the U-15 team with Detmer. Gertner said he moved to Kansas in sixth grade and attended Oxford Middle School while playing on the U-12 team with the Sporting KC Academy.

Gertner lives with his dad while his older siblings and mom live in Oklahoma, where he was from, originally. He said that living with one parent has taught him to be responsible.

“I mean, you gotta mature from a young age,” Gertner said. “Without having my mom [live with me] I had to learn how to cook.”

When Gertner was 10, he said Sporting came to talk to his coach about his interest. From there, Gertner came up to Kansas for a trial and then received a spot on the U-12 team.

Throughout the season, Gertner said he trains by doing drills with the ball and running to stay in shape.

“I work hard and try to put in extra work after practice,” Gertner said. “I want to go pro or at the minimum get a D1 scholarship.”

Detmer said he aims to finish the Academy and then focus on college and professional soccer.

“I want to make it through U-19 year, which is the last age group and then if I don’t make the second team, I will go to a good college while also playing soccer and then see if I can get drafted into the MLS,” Detmer said.

The second team is a step between the Academy and the first team within Sporting’s professional player pathway.

For the U-15, U-17 and U-19 groups, it is fully funded by the SKC Academy, meaning they do not have to pay fees associated with coaching, facilities, travel, equipment, tournaments, etc.

Junior Ronald Lozano plays on the U-17 team. He said his goal is to get a contract with Sporting’s first or second team after he finishes his last two years with the Academy.

Lozano got recruited by a coach who came to watch the State Cup held in Kansas. Then, he said he got offered to stay with a host family for the week of tryouts, away from his home in Wichita.

For Sporting’s young athletes who live too far for daily commute, their residency program matches each athlete with a host.

Host families are expected to provide a safe and supportive environment on the field and in the classroom. According to SKC, host families receive $500/month for each player they host. Families are selected through similar interests and lifestyles after being evaluated. For more information about Sporting’s residential program, check out their website.

Lozano said living with his host, Steve Bartel is like having a role model, as Bartel was a co-founder of Sporting.

“I call him like, kind of my grandpa,” Lozano said. “He’s always there for me.”

With around a two-hour drive to Wichita, Lozano said he tries to visit his family over the weekend. Also, he said his mom typically helps him pack lunches for the upcoming school week by making the effort to drive to Overland Park.

“It’s kind of hard for me, because I’m used to always being with my sisters, so that was pretty tough,” Lozano said.

From committing at an early age, Lozano said his parents have always wanted this opportunity for him.

“I really wanted it too but I think [my parents] wanted it more than me sometimes,”  Lozano said. “They want me to go pro in soccer, and become someone important.”

Living away from his family, while taking five classes at BVNW and working a job, Lozano said that is all worth given the chance to do something amazing.

“The only reason I’m doing this is because I really love the sport,” Lozano said. “I have a passion for it and I can see it as a job for myself later.”

Their season with the Academy started in February and will end in late June. Their games are held nationwide and within the region.

These athletes had their first game on Feb.11 in Chicago. The U-15 team lost to the Chicago Fire FC 3-0, and the U-17 team lost 4-0. Their next game is scheduled to be on Mar. 2 against Minnesota United at Swope Soccer Village, where all of Sporting’s home games are.

Lozano said this lifestyle is worth getting to do something he loves, but it requires work to get there.

“If you really want it, you have to work and not get distracted,” Lozano said. “This is pretty hard for everyone because it’s a sacrifice, not only for me but also my parents.”

This story was originally published on The Express and Husky Headlines on March 7, 2024.