Academy standout reps Bowie


Photo Courtesy of Rowen Wells

WINNING THE BALL: Rowen Wells makes a tackle on an opposing player during a match. Wells is a forward for the Austin FC Academy U-17 team.

Ben Tillisch, Sports Editor

Legs pumping, Austin FC Academy forward and would-be Bowie freshman Rowan Wells commands the soccer ball at his foot, weaving in and out desperate defenders as he churns forward toward the opposing team’s goal. Teammates shout instruction and encouragement, but Wells tunes them out, focusing his mind on the moment at hand.

Breathing deep, Wells allows his muscle memory to robotically strike through the ball, sending it hurtling into the top netting of the goal. A swarm of green and black jerseys quickly envelopes Wells as sheer excitement and satisfaction characterized by victory grips the onlooking parents and coaches. 

Having been in a professional academy environment since being recruited, Wells has continuously trained and chiseled every facet of the game of soccer for the opportunity to drive the Austin FC Academy to being the best youth soccer program in the United States. His time in the academy has not solely benefited his soccer ability though, for Wells describes the impact it has had on his character development.

“The unending expectation for respect towards coaches and players has definitely helped me,” Wells said. “There is never a time where disrespect is tolerated in the academy, even if it’s something as small as not properly shaking somebody’s hand as you leave. As a player, the academy has helped me in every way possible; from strength to technicality, and everything in between.”

The impact of the academy on Wells has expanded past the soccer field and Austin FC’s facilities. Mandy Wells, Wells’ mother, describes how Rowen’s situation has transformed him into being a disciplined and strong young adult. 

“Playing at such a high level has impacted him greatly as a player,” Mandy said. “The physical demand every week can be intense, with the season lasting from August through the following June. They have to be dedicated to healthy eating habits, injury prevention, and rest. Rowen is a young 2007 player, so competing at the national and international U17 level puts him up against mostly older guys. The competition requires a lot of skill, confidence and grit from all the boys. The players are expected to act and perform like professionals both on and off the pitch. Again, both a great opportunity and responsibility.” 

He was a good leader, a good friend, and more than anything always very humble. The sky would be the limit for him.

— Patrick Miller, Capital City Executive Directo

A member of the under-17 (U17) squad, which is a mixture of athletes born in the years 2006 and 2007, Rowen primarily attends the St. David’s Performance Center for online schooling with the rest of his team. Wells discusses the academy’s emphasis on their player’s academic growth.

“The academy cares a lot about grades,” Wells said. “If you’re behind in school, or your grades reflect bad behavior or not paying attention, they can dock things like playing time and revoke other privileges as well.”

Given the professional atmosphere of MLS Next, the league in which the Austin FC Academy competes in, Austin FC encourages their players to make sacrifices to aid in their own development. These sacrifices impact more than just the players though, as Mandy mentions the necessary actions to help Rowen pursue his dream.

“The Academy demands are extensive and require extreme commitment and discipline from players, which impacts most aspects of his life,” Mandy said. “It’s such an amazing opportunity but it also comes with a lot of sacrifice, like missing out on social events and choosing a non-traditional school model, plus time away from family and friends. Mental and emotional strength is a big priority and Rowen is learning to stay focused on the positive aspects of his journey, like international travel opportunities and familiarity with the First Team Player.”

Prior to being recruited by the Austin FC academy, Rowen played for Capital City, a club based in south Austin. In his time there, Rowen was coached by Patrick Miller, the club’s active executive director. Miller illustrates the natural talent possessed by Rowen before joining the academy.

“As a person he’s incredibly humble, one of the most positive people you’ll spend time around and good sense of humor,” Miller said. “One of the team’s captain’s at the time, he was a good leader, a good friend, and more than anything always very humble. The sky would be the limit for him.”

Designed to prepare youth players for college soccer scholarships or Major League Soccer (MLS), the primary goal for the Austin FC Academy is to develop athletes ready to perform with the Austin FC professional team. Since its inaugural season in 2019, the academy has successfully graduated Owen Wolff, the professional team’s first homegrown player. Potentially oping to follow in Wolff’s footsteps, Rowen outlines his ideal career path, mentioning his aspirations to play higher level soccer. 

“A long term goal for myself would be to go to college and get a good degree while playing soccer,” Rowen said. “I’d prefer to play D1 if possible and then look to enter the MLS draft. I’d also be open to signing a contract and playing overseas in the Premier League, Bundesliga, or Serie A; pretty much anywhere that I would get the exposure to play to the best of my ability.”

The academy often exposes their athletes to soccer players from around the country and the world. For example, the Austin FC academy recently hosted the Dutch soccer club Philips Sport Vereniging (PSV), granting the academy’s players including Rowen a unique experience to interact with the European culture surrounding soccer. 

“The academy has given me exposure to all different kinds of people,” Rowen said. “I’ve interacted with players and people all over the United States and even some people from Madrid and Valencia, as well as Eindhoven and Amsterdam. It’s amazing to see the different cultures throughout the world of soccer.”