The Front Row with JASON ELLIOTT Jan. 21, 2012

From the Thunder to the Sound

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Some kids dream of one day playing next to a professional athlete.

For 14-year-old Brett Haney of Coeur d'Alene, he's just a step away from living his dream on the soccer field.

HANEY WAS selected in November for the Seattle Sounders Academy, designed to help grow the skills of youth players throughout the northwest, and to help them get noticed by colleges.

The Sounders Academy holds practices at the Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila, Wash., the training facility of the MLS Seattle Sounders.

Haney travels from Coeur d'Alene to Tukwila with his father, Bryan, on Fridays to attend practices Saturdays and Tuesdays, and returns home after practice on Tuesday. Brett, an eighth-grader, attends school on Wednesdays and Thursdays at Canfield Middle School, skipping the Wednesday Sounders Academy practices. When not practicing while in Tukwila, Brett spends his free time keeping up on his studies as best he can.

Once the semester ends next week, Haney will be home-schooled so he can fully participate in the Sounders camps for the rest of the school year.

Haney played on the Idaho Thunder club team based in Post Falls during the summer.

"My friends really pushed me to my limit," Haney said. "They've always been a big help."

Haney plays forward at the academy, a switch from playing center midfield with the Thunder.

"At forward, I'm just attacking the goal," Haney said. "Defense is a whole other element."

Since arriving at the academy, Haney said he has tried to absorb advice from his coaches, including Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid.

“He told me no matter what happens, to just put 100 percent into what you do,” Haney said.

Alan Hinton, who played on the England World Cup team in 1962, told him how he got started in professional soccer.

“He told me that if I make a mistake, I’ve got to forget about it and just move on,” Haney said.

Haney has watched three Sounders games in person, all coming right before the playoffs earlier this year.

“I kind of think of myself playing professionally someday,” Haney said. “When I go to the matches, I tend to focus on the forward and watch what he’s doing.”

HIS FATHER, Bryan, who coached him on the Thunder, said he has enjoyed the trips back and forth with his son. Bryan played soccer in college at Cal State Fullerton and professionally in Munich, Germany.

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Bryan said of following his son’s career. “It’s kind of fun not being a coach, but a dad instead. He’s getting to see a lot of great talent. It’s a very professional setting. They treat the kids like they’re a part of the pro team. It’s a really cool and great experience. There are lots of great life lessons to be learned from this.”

Bryan added that the travel has involved a lot of miles, another reason for being home schooled for the next semester.

“It’s really been a lot of Redbox, Xbox and good times with my son,” Bryan said. “The hard part is he just turned 14. There’s some harsh lessons to be learned, but it’s great if you embrace it the right way.”

Haney is playing a year up on the Sounders Academy’s under-16 team and is currently the youngest player in the program.

“It’s been a good experience,” Haney said. “They’re taking me far into the game.”

“They groom the kids to remain humble,” Bryan said. “All of this can be gone in an instant.”

PLAYERS WILL compete throughout the summer against academy teams from other MLS teams.

“We’re just taking it one day at a time,” Bryan said. “It could all be over by the fall if things don’t work out.”

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at 664-8176, Ext. 2020, or via email at jelliott@cdapress.com.

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