ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (NBC 26) — “In my opinion, we become professional soccer players here on the training field,” Steve Purdy tells his top trainees as they gather for an early-January workout.
Purdy knows a little something about what it takes to reach that level.
The California native played professionally in both the U.S. and Europe. Before that, he played in college at Cal, where he crossed paths with Packers legend Aaron Rodgers.
“We had several classes together,” Purdy said. “We were essentially there at the same time.”
“We spent a lot of time together at the time and as a result I followed his career closely so when I moved to Green Bay, it was really cool.”
After a decade-long pro career, family brought Purdy to Titletown.
He established Purdy Performance, sharing his experience with a region where the sport is still growing.
“I would say (our facility is) pretty unique,” he said. “We’re all about getting our players to touch the ball a certain way. Creating really strong habits technically.”
“If they have really sharp tools they’re going to be able to play any style of soccer,” he added. “They’re going to be able to play any level of soccer.”
That’s the ultimate objective for many of Purdy’s player
Jackson Miller, a 14-year-old who has been training with Purdy since moving to Green Bay five years ago, said he wants to be “better than Messi.”
It’s a lofty goal, and he and a few others are going to great lengths in hopes of achieving it.
Three of Purdy’s players are spending the year training with professional youth academies.
Miller is in France, with Paris Saint-Germain.
Matthew Tweedy, from Appleton, is in Germany – one of approximately 40 American players chosen to work with the Talent Projekt.
Issa Saidi, also from Appleton, is training with Major League Soccer’s Minnesota United.
“There’s pretty high level players there,” Saidi said. “I get to challenge myself against some of the top level players of Minnesota and out of the country, too.”
“I hope it gets me to the player where I want to be,” Miller said of his training in France. “Mindset, physicality. And just the little things like technicality and shooting.”
Both Purdy and the players described the European game as being more tactical. Training overseas gives Miller and Tweedy a unique opportunity to refine their game. But, it doesn’t come without its drawbacks.
“The toughest part is obviously being away from my family and friends,” Tweedy said. “But I have to make sacrifices to do what I love.”
That’s something their hometown coach can relate to.
“I know what it feels like to be homesick,” Purdy, who played two seasons in Germany in his early 20s, said. “I know the – per se – suffering that I had to go through to learn a language, to learn a culture.”
But the benefits could help the trio – one day – reach their big dreams.
“These kids are living a professional lifestyle at a young age,” Purdy said. “If things do continue and they want to become a pro or they get the chance to become a pro, they’re going to slide in a little easier and they’re going to transition a little easier.”
All three are also attending school at their academies. Miller is learning French and Spanish, while Tweedy is studying German.
The players are currently home for their holiday break. Soon, they will return to finish the academic year with their academies.
Click here to connect with Purdy Performance on Facebook.