Preps: Soccer Showcase Opens Opportunities For Public School Athletes

Next College Student Athlete Looks To Help Open Recruiting In Chicago

By Ian Jackson (@IanNicholas42)

On June 5th, the Chicago Public High School Athletic Association hosted their second annual Chicago Public League Soccer Showcase at Lane Tech Stadium.

Offering approximately 100 of the best high school talents from Chicago Public Schools for an opportunity to show off their skills and abilities in front of collegiate soccer coaches from across the U.S., the Soccer Showcase was created to turn around the apparent lack of representation on college rosters of players representing the city of Chicago.

Outside of the major sports of football and basketball, CPS student athletes do not often have personal access within the city and across the state to the kind of people who can get them to the next level.

The kind of large athletic tournaments where highly vested travel teams across the country show off their local talents for representatives on the next level traditionally have not invited CPS schools, and regional, sectional, and state tournaments are rarely won by city teams. The Lane Tech showcase was created to give CPS soccer athletes an opportunity to connect with college coaches and potentially create a path to college through their sport.

Powered by the collaboration between director of CPS Soccer Juliana Zavala and Nelson Gord, on behalf of the for-profit recruiting network, Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), there’s a good chance the Soccer Showcase could become a fixture for CPS athletes.

“I hope to impress the coaches who are in attendance and hope they have the chance to talk to me afterwards,” said Marine Leadership Academy forward Karen Salgado on her thoughts on what she is looking forward to at the showcase.

Salgado expressed her goal for the day, which was to make sure she impressed the coaches with the best of her abilities throughout the day with the drills being provided to her. She along with a few other players who attended the showcase were really excited to participate and could not wait to show what they could do.

Karen Salgado

Sometimes there would be moments where colleges are looking for a player to do several things on the field or play several positions to really support their team and that’s what Anyssa Pazmino, a center midfielder for Marist High School, and Clever Zambrano, who plays center defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder for Marine Leadership Academy, provide for any team who decides to recruit them. Zambrano worked on 3 vs. 2 drills in particular and also on his communication on the field. Pazmino worked on similar needs and stated their importance for her position.

“It helps me a lot throughout the game. Say if I’m a midfielder and I’m playing defense while they are attacking the defense really helps me and it helps me as an attacking player too. It gives me a lot more playing time because wherever they need me to play I can play there,” Pazmino said.

Zavala, is coming into her third year at Chicago Public Schools. A former CPS athlete, it was important for Zavala to give back so she and her coaching committee sat down and formed the idea of putting a showcase together.

And that’s what happened last year when they did their first ever showcase and it was a huge success with 50 boys and 50 girls all hungry giving it their all showing the college scouts what they can do on the field. It’s important to have the showcases because there is so much talent here under the radar.

All photos by Ian Jackson

“It’s tough to go out to all the high school games but if you can put all the great talent CPS has together well come out and watch it,” Zavala said.

“A lot of athletes don’t have enough money to play for club teams or play for them and it’s in their neighborhood so it’s  important to have as many of them come out to the showcase so they can have an opportunity to show what they can do and have their dream college that they wanted to go to show up and they can perform in front of them and hopefully they can be selected by their dream college.”

It’ll be important to see how the event expands and improves in years to come and how CPS and NCSA goes about spreading the word of the event to more players and more schools while incorporating feedback from coaches and athletes who have already been involved.

The event itself was a fantastic experience — players like Salgado, Pazmino and Zambrano have a chance to be special, it makes them getting a look from the top colleges that were in attendance all the more meaningful.

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