Shalrie Joseph had no interest in going to college after high school until he had a conversation with Nick Dimitrievski, the Director of Athletics and Head Men's Soccer Coach at Bryant & Stratton College.
Dimitrievski convinced Joseph to reconsider, explaining that college would open up opportunities both on and off the field. It was a life-changing moment that Joseph is now looking to provide for other young players.
The former New England Revolution midfielder has partnered with America's Next Soccer Star Tour to offer every soccer player the chance to be discovered. The three-day camps will take place in 14 cities nationwide - from Devens, MA to Tacoma, WA - and will feature professional, college, prep school, and academy coaches. The program is open to both males and females with age brackets ranging from U-10 to over-18. Qualifiers will progress to an ultimate national ID camp.
Joseph explained that America's Next Soccer Star Tour is meant to put gifted players in front of respected scouts.
"It's about discovering the next soccer star, whether it be making it to be a professional or making the academy," Joseph told The Bent Musket. "It's just giving them the opportunity to be seen on a huge platform. Having this opportunity to be discovered is one of the things you dream about."
Joseph has long had an interest in developing future soccer stars. In 2009, he opened Proformance Soccer Academy, which aims to develop a player's passing, dribbling, shooting, and defending. Joseph also had his own youth soccer club, which produced Revolution Homegrown Zachary Herivaux.
Having worked with young athletes for some time now, Joseph knows that players need the right environment to develop and that's what he's hoping to provide through America's Next Soccer Tour.
"I think that if a kid gets the right opportunity and is put in the right place then he or she can definitely make it big," Joseph said. "But it's all about us, players who have gone through it and players who have had the opportunity to be successful. We're trying to give back and help when we can."
Joseph won't be alone in this endeavor as he's reunited with Dimitrievski. The tour will also include a host of other experienced soccer figures, including Western New York Flash Vice President Aaran Lines.
Even in the age of MLS Academies, Joseph believes that America's Next Soccer Star Tour has a place in the domestic soccer landscape since it's impossible to identify every talented soccer player in this immense country. Players are going to get ignored, which is why initiatives like this are necessary.
"In my academy there are a couple of kids that are outstanding and great little players, but they just haven't been able to be seen in the right position," Joseph said. "For me, I think America's Next Soccer Star is giving them that platform to be seen by some of the best coaches."
Joseph trusts that the program has the capacity to change the lives of athletes around the country, not unlike the experience he had so many years ago.
"I don't think I would have been the soccer star that I was or the person that I am today if I wasn't able to be discovered," Joseph explained. "That's the hugest thing about this tour. It's just trying to find the next player and giving him or her the opportunity to get seen by some of the best professional coaches and players."
Those interested in learning more about the program, including how to register, can visit www.AmericasNextSoccerStarTour.com. The tour can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The first stop of the tour will be at Randall's Island Park in New York City from June 17-19, 2016. It will be local from May 5-7, 2017 when they visit Devens Soccer Complex in Devens, MA.