When a player joins the National Premier Soccer League for a summer season the expectation is that they will come out a better player.

Going from the 4th Division to the pro level isn’t easy. But if that is a player’s goal, they may want to make their way to Erie, PA.

Although they have yet to win a championship in their four seasons, the Erie Admirals may have a more impressive track record. The club has proven to be a prime training ground for players who want to make it to the big leagues.

Former Admirals like midfielder Neil Shaffer, goalkeeper Greg Blum, and central defender Adam Clement are among the many who have succeeded in moving from Erie to greener pastures.

Owner and manager John Melody said a big part of the success of players who play for the Admirals is the mentality that he asks of them.

“We work hard, we train hard and I think it’s a good place to be if you want to improve. I think the players who just play summer soccer just to play summer soccer won’t get along too well in our program because we want the players that are really really serious and want to push onto the next level.”

He added that it isn’t a certain style of coaching that helps the players, but that it changes on a person-to-person basis.

“I think that at any level of soccer the man management is important. Different players react to different ways of handling those players,” Melody said. “I think we’ve had (players) that we can give the so called ‘hairdryer’ treatment to and others where you just have to put your arm around them and explain why you’re asking them to do what you’re asking them to do. But nothing is detrimental to the unit, the unit comes first and no player is bigger than the unit, and no coach is bigger than the Admirals. I think we get that point across very well.”

Players who participate in the NPSL often are college players who aren’t able to train with their teams, but want to continue playing soccer at a high level year round.

Melody said when players return to their schools the coaches are often happy with the improvements that have been made.

“I would say that a majority of player and a majority of college coaches are real happy with the players after they return to their respective programs after spending a summer with the Admirals,” Melody said. “They work extremely hard and I think a lot of players that are interested in going on to the next level want to come and play and train with us because they’ve heard that we train really hard, we work hard and we understand that summer soccer is for players (who are really) serious about it and we’re really serious about it. A lot of time and effort goes into running one of these teams and for that reason we expect a certain response from the players that we bring in. I think that it’s a good environment for a player to walk into.”

Melody said watching his players go on to bigger and better places is rewarding as a coach.

“It’s nice to keep an eye on them. It’s nice to see them develop and I think they appreciated their Erie Admiral experience while they were here whether it be for a season or a couple of seasons,” Melody said.

The Admirals will begin their season this summer with a new roster full of young hopefuls who wish to take their talents on to the next level.

Melody said he is just happy being a part of the players’ growth, and that their talent will speak for itself when the season begins.

“We’re just fortunate to have really really good players (in) our program. If we’re a small part in their development we’re happy to do it,” Melody concluded.

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