IDEA public school in Edinburg doubles as soccer academy

By Eddie Flores

As seen in ValleyCentral

The RGV FC Toros partnered with IDEA Public Schools to create a one-of-a-kind educational soccer academy.

It’s no secret that the Rio Grande Valley has some of the best high school soccer athletes in the state, but now it’s said that the best are trained in Edinburg to become an IDEA Toro.

The typical student-athlete’s day begins at 7:45 a.m. for training at the Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance Wellness Centerthat doubles as their new sports facility and school.

The student-athletes train like professionals, because they’re trained by professionals.

Rafael Amaya is a former professional soccer player, an assistant coach for the RGV FC Toros, and now the director of IDEA Toros.

“Down the road, one of the goals is to someday put one or two, if not more of these players on the pro team,” Amaya said. “But first school, second school and third school.”

Most public high schools only require a 2.0 GPA in order for athletes to compete, but not here.

“None of these kids are allowed to train unless they keep a 3.2 GPA or higher,” said Amaya.

The academy is structured in a college-type setting, as the students work at their own pace. Out of 11 seniors, seven are going to be playing soccer at the next level, according to Principal of IDEA Toros Bradley Scott. Those seven student’s ACT scores also went up at least an average of three points, Scott said.

The academy isn’t just a boy’s club.

Isabella Marinaro was a star soccer player for Sharyland High School, but transferred to the academy to get a shot at a better college.

“I've had offers from UTRGV, from Texas Southern, from the University of Houston and from American University in Washington D.C., and I'm still trying to decide,” Marinaro said.

While all the students seem to be very focused on their studies, the reason they attend the academy is to take their soccer game to another level.

Cesar Coronado played soccer for Juarez-Lincolna high school team that made it to the state semi-finals this year. Coronado gave up that opportunity, for this one.

“Its more competitive,” Coronado said. “It’s a lot more competitive. I think in the practices are a lot tougher than over at Juarez.”

RGV FC Toros President Bert Garcia hopes to develop student-athletes in the Valley to play for his professional team. The RGV FC Toros is the developmental team for Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamos.

“I want to make sure our kids, the kids in our own backyard are going to play for us someday, somehow, so it started as a simple idea,” Garcia said.

It was an idea that he took to the CEO and founder of IDEA Public Schools, Tom Torkelson.

“This is a partnership unlike any other in the country,” Torkelson said. “The students are coming to our school--since we're a public school, the state is providing the funding to pay tuition for all these kiddos, and then the Toros organization, through their genorosity, they are funding the soccer side of the whole academy."

The IDEA Toros don’t play against other high school teams, but against other pro-development academies from different states and even different countries, like England and Germany.

The success on the field is translating to success in the classroom.

“Their grades have stayed up,” said Amaya. “We're ranked number one in all IDEA Schools in the whole state, because they get to do what they love."

So far, seven seniors at the academy have signed letter of intents to play for Division 1 colleges. By August 2018, the academy should have its own building to continue its school and soccer program.

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