Kickin’ it in Germany
In the Four States area where football is king, Reece Gaylor has made a name for himself on the soccer pitch. Reece, a junior at Texas High School, was selected to the first-team all-district lists in his freshman and sophomore seasons, as well as being selected to the USYS ODP South Region Pool Team. The talented Tiger has now taken his talents overseas to an Integrated U19 Residential Academy at Schalke 04 in Germany. Reece was selected after submitting a highlight film and application that was evaluated by the scouts at the German club.
Reece’s dad, Aaron, said, “A news article hit my inbox from a site called Soccer Today that talked about tryouts being scheduled for a 2004 born American roster being assembled to train as an integrated Academy Team at a Bundesliga Club in Germany. It sounded like a fantasy. I had never before seen this scenario get proposed where a team of Americans was going to be trained overseas for a year, and at a top German Club as well, like Schalke. You hear about individual players getting opportunities, but never a selected team roster to be fully integrated into a European academy for a full year.
None of the tryout locations were near our area, but Aaron encouraged Reece to apply and submit a highlight film. Aaron said, “Reece and his little brother put one together and posted it to YouTube. We filled out the application and attached the video file. So, imagine the shock and excitement when we got an email two months later, after all the tryouts were done, saying “Congratulations! It is with great pleasure that we enclose your application and player contract for the upcoming Integrated U19 Residential Academy at Schalke 04 in Germany starting in August.” When we got to do a Zoom call with the Club and the sponsoring organization, International Soccer Academy, it was explained how much all the scouts loved what he showed on the highlight film and wanted him on the roster.”
Reece got his introduction to recreational soccer at an early age through the Texarkana Soccer Association. “We have some great memories of playing soccer where I was his coach. Probably took it way too seriously, but I wanted to win, and he wanted to compete. It was competitive and fun, but you realize that it ends at some point and if you think you have a future soccer player with some talent, you know they must get specialized training and play on competitive teams. Fortunately, at age 11, a competitive team was started with Texarkana Soccer Club in Texarkana. As Reece kept playing and improving that season, we felt at that time he needed to move to another club, so Reece spent the next two years with Cabosa in Shreveport. He then spent the following two years practicing in Mount Pleasant with FC Dallas ETX, and playing games every weekend in the Classic League in Dallas. “Over time, we had to go where we felt he could get the best training experience and competitive play. It was definitely worth all the traveling and time, and we have a lot of great memories,” Aaron said.
“The thing about soccer is you sometimes do not know what you do not know, and you may think you are a good player or have a good team till you play better players or better teams. Therefore, it’s very important to try to always seek out higher-level environments to become a higher-level player as much as is possible logistically. You do not improve just by being satisfied with being the best player or team in your particular environment,” Aaron said. It was that understanding that led Reece to wanting to challenge himself by attending this world-class soccer academy in Germany, even if at first it seemed like an impossibility.”
“Reece and his teammates appear to be living the best life, training once or twice a day for six days a week with matches on Wednesdays, all with coaches, trainers and amazing facilities. A big plus is they all get along great with each other and interact well with one another. No cliques, really. All smiles and laughing when they are together, so we really got lucky because in a competitive environment you never know what kind of personalities you can get in a group. Plus, the two coaches are young and are ex-Academy players and can really relate to the boys. Right now, the team is playing German U19 Academy teams that are in the second and third-level rank of youth teams with the goal of playing Bundesliga teams as they grow together and get better as a team. Many of the American U19 players gave up spots in MLS or USL Academy Teams back home so the talent is there, but it comes down to the experiment of American players playing German players,” Aaron said.
Reece’s goal is to see if he can get a place on the regular German Schalke U19 Academy Team next year, while continuing his high school courses through Texas Virtual School Network. Texas High School is a part of the network for remote learning. As Reece continues on the professional path of soccer, his father said, “Players can really progress well under the right high-level training for a long enough duration, so that is the hope for Reece. If his potential eventually plateaus, he can come home and go play in college. Most of his teammates already have Division 1 offers, so the fact that he is a starter on the team is encouraging. I can tell that he is improving under the daily training and games, growing into his potential. He is really blessed to be there.”
The Gaylor family has also used this passion for soccer to the betterment of our city. Aaron and his family saw the benefit Reece gained by using the indoor soccer facility in Shreveport during his development. This was something Aaron wanted to recreate in Texarkana. Aaron said, “We found an existing building with some land in a nice area that was for sale that was just big enough to create a nice indoor field. Therefore, we renovated it-putting in field turf and adding some extra viewing areas, and now it is known as 5aside. We have youth and adult soccer there. It’s been great for the soccer community.”