Benefits of A Gap Year in Spain Before Playing Collegiate Soccer
Is going straight from high school to college the best choice for every player? Here is information on taking a gap year in Spain complete with help gaining a roster spot at a prestigious university.
Jaime Miralles Sanz is the CEO and Co-Founder of ETURE Sports, an elite player development program in Valencia, Spain. With a graduate in Economics from Oregon State University, Sanz is a former professional footballer at UD Alzira and a proud former student-athlete.
With a unique understanding and appreciation of the American youth soccer landscape and professional soccer in Europe, Sanz recognized the need for American players to have the opportunity to try to play professionally in Europe or gain more experience before playing collegiate soccer. ETURE Sports was created to provide these opportunities.
TO CREATE. TO LEAD. TO BE FOLLOWED.
ETURE’s competitive program places a player in a true Spanish club to be trained and immersed in the world of Spanish futbol.
The player’s performance is evaluated during the week-long trial. ETURE’s development program is in an exclusive training gap year where participants are individually exposed to the different aspects of the game. Coached by qualified professionals with proven backgrounds at La Liga Academy teams, ETURE offers a chance for a top player to test their skills and develop to new heights.
SoccerToday Interview with ETURE’s Jaime Miralles Sanz
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the ETURE Sports Spanish Gap Year Program?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: Our gap-year Spanish immersion program opens the door for international experience as players live, train and participate with o professional staff as well as within one of the professional clubs in and around Valencia that we have built relationships with.
Our program is an “Alternative Pathway” for players that maybe are not fully convinced about their collegiate soccer options once they graduate from high school. Sometimes players need a little more in a coach’s eye by way of technical, tactical, physical or mental growth and/or development. Being that the players are not enrolled in school, no college eligibility is exhausted.
Diane Scavuzzo: Who is the right player for your program?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: We are looking for players who have had difficulties being scouted by the colleges and universities of their choice and are hungry enough to do whatever it takes to get there or players who would like to have a year of soccer immersion in Spain before attending university.
Those players who think “I will succeed … maybe not immediately, but absolutely and definitely.”
Playing and living in another country is not for everybody.
Some of our players come without having a great understanding of the language and face difficulties to communicate with our staff, teammates, and friends. They also go through different psychological, emotional, and athletic challenges that test their ability to adapt to a new culture, traditions or style of play.
Sometimes it is hard to find a way to succeed when you are playing overseas. Therefore, we are searching for players who already have or are looking to develop a strong mentality, enjoy facing adversity, like to be challenged and find opportunities when others see problems and barriers.
Diane Scavuzzo: How does spending a year training abroad benefit a player looking to play DI college soccer?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: ETURE Sports was born as a college recruiting agency, helping Spanish players who don’t make it to La Liga transition into US College Soccer.
We have helped over fifty Spanish players and secured over $4,500,000 in athletic scholarships in the past three years.
My personal experience, along with my twin brother and partner, Ximo Miralles, gives us the inside track to and we have an extensive network of college coaches travel abroad every year to Spain to recruit international players.
The first immediate benefit of taking a gap-year with ETURE Sports is the experience of living abroad through an organization specialized in college placement which understands the academics and athletics goals of student-athletes.
Learning a new language, overcoming homesickness, adapting to a new culture, meeting new people, making strong connections, facing adversity, solving problems on your own … All these aspects of a year abroad are life-changing opportunities for our players.
The ETURE Sports Spanish Gap Year Program offers great resources and the expertise to provide the exposure needed to achieve a successful collegiate placement back to the states.
Diane Scavuzzo: Are you able to help your players with American colleges while they are in Spain?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: College coaches search for older players who are physically developed and who can have an immediate impact on the team.
This aspect of the recruiting process makes it harder for players who just recently graduated from high school. The key is to understand that the domestic player needs to find a way to become more complete in the market and more competitive against international prospects who are looking to find a spot in a US college soccer program.
A gap-year abroad enables USA players to compete against international prospects more effectively.
In terms of soccer development, there are a lot of benefits to playing in the Spanish federated leagues.
Playing abroad for the 10-months season and learning the dynamics of competing in a full European league in which your team fights for promotion or relegation, and understanding the fact that not every player gets rostered for the games, that training sessions are extremely important to gain and secure your spot in the team, all while being immersed in a country where everyone dreams of becoming a professional soccer player help our players grow into a more mature human beings and better athletes.
In addition, to the individual visits from American collegiate soccer coaches, ETURE organizes an annual player showcase event, where our American players compete against Spanish players from different divisions in front of college coaches.
This year the event will take place in Valencia on February 4th and 5th, 2020.
Diane Scavuzzo: Are there opportunities to be ‘seen’ by scouts and possibly be recruited to play soccer professionally in a European league?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: The exposure to professional scouts, technical directors, and professional agents exists on a daily basis.
My brother is currently playing at ADA Alcorcon in La Liga 123 (Second Division), and this increases the recognition of our program on a national level. However, the likelihood of being scouted by a professional team depends on the level of our players.
Even though the connections established in the past years have generated great resources for ETURE to connect players to the professional world, our focus is not to provide a professional pathway, but to maximize the opportunities of our players to play at the highest collegiate soccer level. ETURE SPORTS is an organization that values academics as important as soccer.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your background?
Jaime Miralles Sanz:I grew up playing at the Villarreal CF Academy for 10 years, from U8s to U18s and attended the University of Vermont from 2014 to 2016, during which we won the American East Conference in my final season.
Looking for another challenge, I transferred to Oregon State University and played in the PAC-12 for my last two seasons while graduating with a degree in Economics in December 2017.
I returned to Spain and worked for Villarreal CF while playing professionally for CD Roda of the Spanish 3rd Division. I signed for the 2018-2019 season with UD Alzira before launching ETURE. I am the General Manager and Director of Admissions for all programs.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your brother’s background?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: My brother Ximo Miralles also started his career at the Villarreal CF Academy and was there for 12 years, from U8s to U23s.
He won the U19 National Championship in 2015 and then moved to Clemson University where he played for two seasons. Moving back to Spain after graduation in December 2017, he signed a professional contract with Villarreal CF U23s.
In 2018, he signed with ADA Alcorcon of La Liga 123, and made his professional debut against Malaga in November 2019.
Diane Scavuzzo: You also work with Ziggy Korytoski, the head coach of ASC San Diego and the Director of Southern California’s youth soccer program, Albion SD – Chula Vista. What does Ziggy do for you?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: Ziggy Korytoski is the Executive Director of North America for the ETURE Sports Spanish Gap Year Program and oversees the relationships with college coaches and American academy directors. His experience in the youth, college, and professional environments have been crucial to meet the needs of our players.
Ziggy visited Spain when the ETURE Gap-year program was only an idea and guided our staff in securing all the necessary resources to run the program. He is also a big part of our college recruiting staff and helps create more exposure for our players.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is it like to live in Valencia?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona.
The city is located on the Turia River, on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula and right next to the Mediterranean Sea.
Valencia offers many sand beaches, a short trip out of the city center by public transport. Valencia’s historic center is known for its art museums, local cafés, tapa bars, paella restaurants, and amazing architecture. And, Valencia’s weather is close to perfect as we get more than 300 days of sunshine a year and in the winter, it only rains a little.
Valencia is internationally known for being the original home of Spain’s most famous dish, Paella Valenciana. The city has many authentic and traditional paella restaurants that our players enjoy with their families when they visit the program.
Diane Scavuzzo: I know this is a program for 18-year-olds who are taking a gap year before college but is there any adult supervision?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: Our players are usually over 18-years-old and we treat them like adults when it comes to safety and supervision.
With that said, our coaches and coordinators are on call 24 hours a day in case of any issue that might arise or a player needing immediate assistance.
However, we do consider part of the experience of living abroad that the players learn how to make their own decisions.
Our players would be in college if they were not in Spain on a gap year and in college, they would receive limited supervision. We want players to make decisions on their own, understanding the consequences of being in a foreign country and away from home.
Diane Scavuzzo: Can players younger than 18-years-old come to train?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: We are constantly receiving applications for younger players who would like to join our program. However, we don’t have the possibility yet of enrolling players in a high school in Spain where they can finish their secondary education. Another reason why we don’t have an underage program is because players cannot process their International Transfer Clearance until they turn 18 according to FIFA regulations.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many players do you take and is there a cost to apply?
Jaime Miralles Sanz: Applying for our program is free. We are currently taking applications for next season as we limit our program to only 30 players. On January 31, 2020, we will have accepted and confirmed 15 players as part of next year’s roster.
Applications for the 2020-2021 season are accepted up until May 1, 2020, or until our program reaches capacity with the final 15 acceptance leers to be announced on May 15, 2020.