Education + Sport = Opportunity has proven to be the equation for success over the years at the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy (SIMA). Since its inception in 2013, the SIMA Program continues to witness elite level progress generating endless talent year after year to go on to the collegiate and professional levels. This year, 2021, has proven to be no different as John Atem Kato accepted a college scholarship to the University of Portland on the very same day that SIMA alumnus Oumar Diakhite signed a professional contract with Eintracht Braunschweig of the German Bundesliga.
“The results we are now seeing at all levels is a true testament to our belief in developing the whole person, not just the soccer player,” said SIMA Director Mike Potempa. “We care most about the person, then the student, and finally the athlete – in that exact order – to ensure that we are preparing young men for life on and off the field. This makes all the difference.”
The difference, indeed, has been made as four SIMA alumni were recently drafted in the 2021 MLS SUPERDRAFT on January 21, 2021. Clemson sensation and Generation adidas signing Philip Mayaka led the way as he was drafted by the Colorado Rapids in the first round as the third overall pick. Also taken in the first round were SIMA graduates and ACC standouts Kizza Edward to the New England Revolution and Justin Malou to the Columbus Crew. Rounding out SIMA’s success in the ‘21 MLS SUPERDRAFT was Ohio State graduate Joshua Jackson-Ketchup who was picked by the Columbus Crew and will join the 2020 MLS Champions with his former Montverde Academy teammate Justin Malou.
“We are certainly proud of this moment,” said SIMA Director of Methodology Toni Hernandez. “To have an opportunity to play in Major League Soccer does not happen too often and to see four of our alumni taken in the draft shows the work we are doing here is unique and special to the world.”
Other notable SIMA alumni currently in Major League Soccer include 2019 MLS Rookie of the Year Andre Shinyashiki, local talents Benji Michel and Jordan Bender who are both first team professionals with Orlando City SC, and Mohamed Traore who graduated from Montverde Academy in May of 2020 and signed a first team contract with LAFC in August at the tender age of 18 after studying and training at MVA for four years.
“What not many people are aware of is that a young man like Kizza Edward was our Head Senior Prefect here at Montverde Academy, Justin Malou is the first college graduate in his family history after receiving a diploma from Clemson University in December, and Joshua Jackson-Ketchup is now a graduate from Ohio State University with a diploma in Communications and has been accepted to graduate school to study Kinesiology and Sports Management,” said SIMA college coordinator Kevin Varnado. “We, of course, celebrate their success on the field, but are just as proud of them for focusing on their education to fall back on when their soccer career is finished.”
In addition to the MLS success that SIMA has witnessed in the month of January, it has also just been announced that 18-year-old starlet John Thomas Kamara has signed a professional contract with Louisville City FC of the USL Championship. Originally from Sierra Leone, Kamara is currently a 12th grade student at Montverde Academy and will finish his high school education virtually in order to report to preseason on time and receive his diploma in May with the Class of 2021.
“JT is a special talent that you don’t see often and has been working hard on and off the field for the past three years to achieve his dream,” Potempa said. “Starting his career in the USL with John Hackworth and Louisville City FC is the exact platform Kamara needs to flourish at the next level.”
Kamara joins SIMA alumni Ates Diouf and Omar Ciss who signed professional contracts with the Austin BOLD of USL Championship in 2020, along with Malick Mbaye (Clemson University/North Carolina FC), Bruno Lapa (Wake Forest University/Birmingham Legion), Abdoulaye Diop (Atlanta United 2), Michee Ngalina (Colorado Switchbacks), and Albert Dikwa (Pittsburgh Riverhounds).
“We are now realizing our true potential through education and sport,” Hernandez noted. “As we continue to evolve and polish this unique developmental process and remain focused on the person first, success will always follow.”