High school soccer programs don’t usually get a lot of buzz in their second year of existence, but the success of Prairie Seeds Academy’s boys’ soccer team has caused talk from local circles to ESPN. Prairie Seeds Academy (PSA) currently has a record of 14-0-1 with 94 goals scored and only 11 goals conceded.
PSA is a K-12 charter school that opened in 2001. In its first year, the school only had 91 students. After 9 years, the size of the student body has grown, but is still quite smaller than most high schools with just 740 students. Boys’ soccer is currently PSA’s only competitive athletic program.
There are 32 players in PSA’s soccer program, 17 of which are on the varsity roster. When the school first opened, the student body nearly all came from Asian backgrounds, but as the school has grown so has the diversity. Nearly all of the players currently on the team transferred to PSA after the school’s soccer program was established by school co-founder Ger Yang and athletic director and soccer coach Youssef Darbaki.
Darbaki has an extensive soccer background. As a player, Darbaki played professionally in Morocco, Spain, Portugal and the US, and represented Morocco in the 1982 World Cup. Darbaki has also coached at every level available in Minnesota and is currently coaching one of Minnesota’s NPSL teams, the Twinstars. Darbaki says that a lot of his team’s success comes from the different style of coaching he uses. Darbaki says his team doesn’t play like a typical high school team because he doesn’t train the team like a typical high school soccer team and instead uses methods he took from his time playing professionally.
Though coaching and training play a large role in the success of a team, there needs to be a certain level of commitment from players in order for a program to succeed like PSA has. In addition to what the players are expected to do while training, there are also expectations from the school. All varsity players are required to maintain a GPA of 3.5 in order to participate. Darbaki hopes that by encouraging his team to keep their grades up the players will be able to earn scholarships to Division I schools. In some cases a scholarship might be the only way a player’s family can afford to send them to college.
The high expectations put on the team academically and in soccer have paid off. So far five of Prairie Seeds Academy’s players have given verbal commitments to Division I schools. Senior forward Issac Kanneh has committed to Northern Illinois University. The other four players that have made commitments are senior forward Gerald Ben, junior defenders Eric Gaye and Adama Keita and junior midfielder Ibrahim Keita.
While Prairie Seeds Academy currently has boys’ soccer as their only athletic program, the school is planning on expanding. This year there will be a boys’ basketball team and next year the school’s girls’ soccer team will play a full schedule. In addition to the new programs, PSA will also be expanding their facilities with a dome. With the boys’ team only graduating three of its varsity players it is expected that the talk about the school and its program won’t be fading away anytime soon.