Challenger Sports Partners with SPIRE Academy to provide Academic and Professional Pathway for Elite Athletes


For over 30 years, Challenger Sports has been at the forefront of youth soccer development in North America. The goal remains today to ignite a passion for soccer from the youngest age group whilst providing a player development and coach education pathway all the way through to adulthood. For several years, Challenger has offered the extremely popular and successful SoccerPlus and Post To Post elite player programs- both day and residential camps aimed at outfield and goalkeeper specialists respectively. The latter program was established and developed by the late Tony DiCicco, US Women’s Olympic and World Cup-winning coach.

This fall sees the announcement of a partnership between Challenger and SPIRE. Challenger’s elite programs will continue to focus on a proven model of national and international camps led by world-renowned coaches and trainers, incorporating the philosophy and established work of both Post To Post camps, led by Steve Richards, and the aforementioned Tony DiCicco’s SoccerPlus camps. Both Challenger and SPIRE aim to provide a pathway using our domestic and international pipelines for elite players through the SPIRE Soccer Academy, which is seen as an evolution of the Post To Post and SoccerPlus pathways.

Both SPIRE Soccer and the Challenger leadership team are focused on providing elite players with a path to improving their skills with the ultimate objective of continuing their athletic pursuits in college and beyond.

What happens next?

The two groups will combine to host regional and national player ID clinics and camps, tournaments and skills and performance development labs to enable elite players to train with and learn from the best soccer and athletic trainers available. SPIRE offers the superior facilities best suited to help these elite players excel – from indoor to outdoor fields, Performance Studio, 700 capacity FUEL cafeteria, an Olympic-quality track, turf and recovery space. SPIRE’s Post Graduate Programs also offer a pathway for Elite athletes aiming to extend their training, college preparation and career development for the greatest chance of success not just in sport, but in life. Challenger will continue to offer regional programs and tournaments across North America away from the SPIRE facility, and any of these attendees will also be presented with a pathway to the SPIRE Academy.

Ron Matsch, Challenger’s chairman and co-founder, said, “We know that our elite players want a pathway to collegiate and professional soccer, and at Challenger we are proud to be able to help these players fulfill their dreams. We have reimagined our training programs and invested heavily to find the best coaches and trainers, and to develop the right teams for these elite players. Our partnership with SPIRE will allow these players to showcase their talents at a world-class facility and to maximize their playing time by combining their education with their training. We hope to expand our partnership with SPIRE as we go forward.”

Jonathan Ehrenfeld, SPIRE Managing Partner, said: “SPIRE Academy is a perfect place for elite players to continue their education and get the highest level of athletic training available. We routinely host Olympic and collegiate events at our world-class facilities, and we are excited to bring Challenger’s history of excellence and care for their players directly to SPIRE. We look forward to expanding our relationship with Challenger in the future.”

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SPIRE Contact info:

Phone: (440) 466-1002

Email: [email protected]

Address: 5201 SPIRE Circle, Geneva, OH 44041