Ricky Burke and Allan Flott know fancy footwork and what it's
like to compete in large stadiums in front of cheering
crowds. What gives them the most satisfaction these days,
however, is passing along their love of soccer, or "football"
as much of the world calls it, to young people.
The duo created Players Soccer Academy last spring to help
students at diocesan schools grow in confidence, friendship
and character - all while enjoying "a sport close to our
hearts," said Burke.
Meeting on a summer league soccer team a few years ago, both
Burke and Flott attended Arlington Catholic schools; Burke
went to St. Thomas More Cathedral School, Flott to St. Agnes
and Bishop O'Connell High School.
Their faith-based education and soccer defined their
childhoods. Burke's English father is a former professional
soccer player and coach, so "soccer is definitely in my
blood," he said. After playing for the under-18 D.C. United
Academy team, a competitive program run by the
Washington-based professional club, Burke moved to Scotland
to play professionally and earn a degree in business.
Eventually returning to Virginia, he competed with the
Flott also played for D.C. United Academy as a teen before
being recruited to play Division I soccer at West Virginia
University in Morgantown.
The friends have spent years coaching in various capacities,
and the soccer academy reflects their experience, said Amy
Fry, director of St. Charles Borromeo Early Childhood
Education Center in Arlington. The school is one of six in
the diocese to host the after-school academy programs.
"Being gifted at something doesn't make you a good teacher,"
Fry said, "but (Flott and Burke) are excellent with kids and
put a lot of thought into age-appropriate skills and drills.
"The children adore it," she added.
Danielle Sigwalt, whose 4-year-old attends the academy at St.
Charles, said her son talks about it all the time. "I'm just
thrilled with the joyful environment these coaches create,"
The programs also are offered at St. John Academy in McLean;
Corpus Christi Early Childhood Education Center and Corpus
Christi School, both in Falls Church; St. Andrew the Apostle
School in Clifton; and St. Veronica School in Chantilly.
Flott and Burke hope to expand to additional diocesan
A Mini Soccer Academy for preschoolers and pre-kindergartners
includes eight weekly 45-minute sessions. "It's an
introduction to soccer that features movement and balance
exercises," said Flott. They also run an hourlong program for
children in kindergarten through fifth grade, which offers
more technical skills, such as dribbling and passing.
"We want to engage the kids physically and mentally while
also instilling good communication, teamwork and
sportsmanship - all the virtues we learned at Catholic
schools," said Flott.
Starting in June, the academy will host a series of
diocesan-wide summer camps at several locations, including
Corpus Christi School, St. Veronica and Christendom College
in Front Royal. The camps are a way to bring students from
around the diocese together and "create friendships that will
hopefully continue," said Flott.
Although Burke and Flott were stand-out athletes, their focus
is not developing professional soccer players. "So many clubs
cater to elite soccer players, but we want the students to
just have fun and enjoy a new sport with friends," said
"We're really happy to pass along the sport we love," added
Burke, "as well as a little of our knowledge to kids."
Find out more
To learn more about Players Soccer Academy after-school
programs and camps, go to theplayerssocceracademy.com,
or call 703/598-5039 or 571/594-7094.