Frequently asked questions

Program Overview

Who are the Albany Alleycats and where are they located?


The Albany Alleycats were founded in 1994 by Afrim Nezaj, originally as a semi-professional men’s soccer team that competed as part of the USISL from 1995-1999. Since that time, the Alleycats have grown into an elite developmental platform for youth soccer in Albany, NY. The Alleycats are a Non-Profit educational organization incorporated under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.




What is the mission of the Albany Alleycats Premier Soccer Program?


The Alleycats Soccer Club’s mission is to foster the physical, mental, and emotional growth and development of youth in the capital district through the sport of soccer. Through proper guidance, professional coaching and centralized leadership, each player will be given the opportunity to play soccer in a supportive and rewarding environment that emphasizes fun, enjoyment and skill learning at a level that fits his/her ability and desire.

The Alleycats aim to educate players both on & off the field through use of best practices associated with the game, and player centered, coach driven, parent guided soccer environments. We pride ourselves on respecting the tradition of our club and our communities, while simultaneously striving to innovate and collaborate in order to expand our knowledge base and practices with the youth and families we work with.




Who are the best candidates to play for Alleycats teams?


Any players who wish to dedicate themselves to consistent high level training and wish to compete with and against some of the best youth soccer players in the area are prime candidates for the Albany Alleycats. Any player who is looking for a premier soccer organization that is going to challenge them to get better during every training session and is willing to work hard to improve their skills are also prime candidates for our program.




How long do typical training sessions run for?


Indoor sessions are usually 1 hour and 15 minutes of field time. Coaches will usually hold team meetings (chalk talk, video sessions, etc.) periodically throughout the season. Outdoor sessions will typically be 1 hour 30 minutes.




What is the coach to player ratio for trainings and games?


Alleycats team training sessions will typically be run by their coach or a designated trainer. For the Boys and Girls Academy (U8-U12), there will be multiple coaches within the club who will be working with the players. The club will always try their best to have multiple coaches at training to help individualize player development, as well as instruct small group concepts.




Are there specific Goalkeeper sessions that players may attend?


Yes. Our Goalkeeping Directors, Alex Drambour and Shawn Willis will hold Goalkeeper specific training sessions throughout the entire season for players to attend.




Are players required to attend all team trainings and matches?


We are proud of our players dedication to their club and team. Of course, we also want them to be well-rounded, and are cognizant of the benefits behind being a multi-sport athlete. We ask that our players hold themselves accountable and do their best to stay committed.




How will the training schedules be communicated?


Team managers will typically send weekly emails to all parents and players letting them know where and when their team will train that week.





Club Staff

What is different about the Alleycats Program’s Coaching Staff?


The coaching staff combines our area’s top youth, high school and college coaches who share common ideas about player development. Additionally, several of our staff have backgrounds in education, be that degrees or significant work experience. We strive to take that experience and apply it to our club philosophy and practices. On the soccer field that can look like considering what the proximal zone of development for individuals and teams is, or differentiating instruction by using small group instruction and push-in/pull-out models. Off the field, it allows our staff to be educated and informed on the learning strengths and needs of our players, and be in tune with the academic rigors that players are navigating.




Are all staff members licenced coaches?


Yes. All team coaches on staff hold a coaching license either from the United States Soccer Federation or through United Soccer Coaches.




Who are the Specialty Coaches in the Alleycats?


Goalkeepers

  • Alex Drambour
  • Shawn Willis
Sports Performance
  • Shields Fitness - Joe and Emma Shields
  • Need4Speed - Mike Palmer





Team Training Sessions & Facilities

How many days a week will Alleycats Teams train?


All Alleycats teams train 2 to 3 times a week. Traditionally, boys teams will train on Mondays & Wednesdays. Girls teams will be typically be on Tuesdays & Thursdays. We also offer technical sessions throughout the year at various times and days. Scheduling will vary based on curriculum periodization, team needs, match schedules, facility availability, and built in breaks throughout the calendar.




Where do Alleycats Teams hold training sessions?


The Alleycats are proud to offer their players the best training facilities in the Capital District! During the winter, all of our teams train on indoor turf fields located at the Afrim’s Sports facilities. Our outdoor facilities include some of the best facilities in the area as well, based out of the Afrim’s Sports Park. Here are some of the other facilities we use:

  • Union College
  • Siena College
  • Albany College of Pharmacy
  • Lansingburgh High School
  • College of St. Rose




What times will each team train?


All sessions will range in start times between 4:30pm to 8:15pm. Our boys and girls academy sessions (U8-U12) usually start at either 4:30pm or 5:45pm while our older teams will typically have a start time between 5:45pm to 8:15pm. Practice times are subject to change.





League Information & Tournaments

What are some of the leagues that Alleycats teams participate in?


The Alleycats are very proud to be a member of one of the most prestigious soccer leagues in the country called the Eastern Development Program or “EDP.” EDP is a member of US Youth Soccer which offers it’s players one of the best player development pathways on the east coast. Our top U13-U19 girls teams as well as several boys teams participate in the USYSA National League divisions of EDP. In the 2019-20 season, two of our teams were also accepted into the prestigious USYS National League following a rigorous application process. Teams may also participate in local leagues like CDYSL.




What are the benefits of being a Puma King Club and an EDP Super Club?


Due to the great history of player development that the Alleycats have shown, the club is considered a EDP Super Club. This automatically qualifies Alleycats teams for EDP league play and tournament acceptance, generally at the highest levels that they offer. Puma gains us access to their sanctioned events as well as providing our staff and players equipment for training.




What is the travel like for Alleycats Teams?


Alleycats teams that participate in an NL/EDP League can expect to play around 4 home matches and 4 away matches in a typical spring season. Those away games could take place in various locations including: New York City, Westchester, Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Teams will typically not travel more than 3 hours for away matches. They may travel longer distances for overnight tournament




When will teams participate in league play and at what ages?


Due to school soccer in the Fall, only a select number of teams will play in an EDP league during that time. For the 2019 Fall season, our U10-U13 Boys “Elite” teams played in EDP while our U13-U14 Girls “NL Red” teams played Fall EDP. All other Academy Teams (U8-U12) will have practices held during the fall. In the spring, our U11-U19 Elite, Premier, NL Red and EDP White teams will play in a Spring EDP League. Other teams may be entered into local leagues such as CDYSL




Will Alleycats Teams attend Tournaments during the season?


Yes. All of our teams can expect to play in at least 4 outdoor tournaments a year. Our “Elite” boys teams and “NL Red” girls teams will play in some of the highest ranked competitions in Region I. Here are some of the tournaments they may attend: National: Bethesda Premier Cup (MD), CASL (NC), Disney Soccer Showcase (FL), Jefferson Cup (VA), PDA Kickoff Classic and Showcase (NJ), Vegas Players College Showcase (NV), San Diego Surf Cup (CA), WAGS Rael Vodicka Memorial Tournament (VA) Regional: EDP Tournaments & Showcases (NJ), FC Delco Players Cup (PA), FC Stars Labor Day Tournament (MA), GPS Tournaments & Showcases (MA), Manhattan Kickoff Classic (NY), Massapequa Showcase (NY), Needham Memorial Day Tournament (MA), NEFC Tournaments & Showcases (MA), NEWSS (NY), Nordic Cup (VT), Seaside Invitational (RI), USYF North Regional Championships, USYS Eastern Regional Championships Our “Premier” and “EDP WHite” teams will travel to many of the tournaments listed above but may also attend: Local: Afrims Tournament Series, Bethlehem Spring Tournament, Cap City Showcase (NY), CDYSL Empire Cup (NY), Clifton Park Fall Kickoff, Golden Goal Turf Cup, Niskayuna Spring Tournament, Rotterdam Spring Kickoff, Saratoga May Day Tournament The club will always try their best to place their teams into tournaments where they can be both successful and challenged at the same time. The club will always try their best to place their teams into tournaments where they can be both successful and challenged at the same time.





Gear & Equipment

What gear will players be required to purchase at the start of the season?


All Alleycat players will be required to purchase a full uniform set including:

  • White and Red PUMA jerseys
  • Navy PUMA shorts
  • Navy/White Striped PUMA socks
Families are also highly encouraged to buy items such as:
  • PUMA warm-up jacket & pants
  • PUMA Alleycats backpack




What are players expected to bring with them for games?


All players must bring their full uniform to all games and tournaments. This includes BOTH red and white PUMA jerseys, navy PUMA Shorts, navy/white striped PUMA socks. They must always have their shin guards, a practice jersey, and either outdoor cleats or indoor turf shoes with them for all games. Players are also required to bring their soccer ball to games as well.




What are players expected to wear for training?


All players should wear their grey Alleycats training top (which the club provides for free when they register) for ALL training sessions. They are also encouraged to wear their navy soccer shorts and navy/white striped socks. All players are expected to wear long soccer socks and shin guards to training and should always bring a soccer ball with them.




Will the club provide any gear for their players?


Each year, players are given two free training jerseys. All other uniform items and equipment are purchased individually by each family.




Where can I purchase all of this equipment?


The Alleycats are proud to be partnered with the Afrim’s Sports Soccer Shop. They take care of all Alleycat apparel orders. Please check this website for store hours.





Costs

Does the club offer different payment plans?


Yes. The Alleycats will arrange separate payment plans for families that need to make payment arrangements. Parents are required to communicate directly with club administrators.




Does the club offer scholarships to players?


Yes. The Alleycats will offer full or partial scholarships to players and parents who show proper documentation that they are in need of a scholarship.




What are the club fee's to play for Alleycats?


2020 Fee's coming soon.





Player Advocacy

How does your club help your student-athletes balance their training/playing with their academics?


We put a lot of trust on our players and parents to communicate with the coaching staff around academics in order to make sure we strike a proper balance in the context of our training program. We help our families by not having an absolute attendance policy in place, taking away the pressure that an attendance policy can put on them. Additionally, we regularly communicate out additional practice opportunities with other age groups or genders so that families have a level of flexibility to navigate their schedules. We have found that in the majority of cases players and parents responsibly navigate the level of dedication necessary to be successful at our club, but we try to give them a reasonable level of flexibility to do so.




What does your club do to emphasize fun (which if not present is a major reason young people drop out of sports)?


The most important thing that we do to reinforce fun for our players is having coaches that build great relationships with the kids they work with and have fun with the kids all of the time. Having professional and knowledgeable staff is important, but we also look for staff that are fun and relatable to our kids. With that said, we try to inject fun in what we do in different ways systematically. Our coaches all strive to set aside time every practice to allow the kids some form of free play, and we work to make sure that training is competitive as kids have fun when competing. Our teams generally do a couple of team bonding activities during the course of the season, both when we are home in Albany and when we go away for tournaments and showcases. Every year our youth academy has a lock-in that our older girls get involved with and that has been a lot of fun for the kids and staff. Finally, our teams usually get involved in community service during the course of the season, and contributing to their communities has always had nothing but positive benefits to the community and our players.




What does your club do to help your student-athletes decide what to do after graduation from high school?


When our players get to the college search age and showcases begin, the coaches assigned to those age groups and teams play a vital role in the college search process with regards to those interested in continuing to play in college. On a club-wide level, for interested players we have college panels that involve bringing in local coaches to discuss the college selection and recruiting process. More specifically, any player interested can start the college process at any time, but U15 is usually when our coaches start laying the groundwork with starting the discussion around college and acclimating them to showcases and the schedule of training and competition inherent with it. Additionally, this is usually around the time when coaches will go over the timeline and what to expect over their high school tenure to work through the college admissions process concurrent with college recruiting timelines. At U16 and U17 our players are encouraged to start making more concrete plans with regards to potential schools they are looking into based on academics and general fits, with the coaching staff providing guidance and support around the athletic portion of those schools. We work with players around reaching out to coaches in preparation for showcases, and flexibly navigate ID clinic participation our players choose to participate in. U18/19 for most of our players they have winnowed down the search process and really it comes down to making decisions, and we offer support in that process if needed. Two things that we make sure to reinforce with all of our student athletes in the college search process is that it is critical that they prioritize academic and environmental fit over athletic fit. At the end of the day would they still be happy at that school if athletics were no longer an option? The second piece is to be mindful and humble around the recruiting process. Getting recruited and potentially playing in college means that more development needs to occur to prepare for that level. It is imperative for players to not be content with just getting to that stage but continue to strive to take their game to another level.