PENDLETON — While many of his fellow seniors are shopping to stock their college dorms, Brian Wolverton is preparing a passport.
Wolverton, a Pendleton Heights senior, is bound for England to study and play soccer at the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy, a university in Leeds, approximately three hours north of London.
While overseas, Wolverton will receive the same college-level education as he would have gotten here in the United States. At the same time, he’ll play competitive soccer on the European stage.
“To have the opportunity to play international soccer in a place where soccer is the premier sport is an amazing honor for a U.S. player,” said Bobby Holden, the head coach for Wolverton’s club team, USF Real. Holden is also the New Palestine High School head coach. “The tradition and history of soccer in England goes far beyond what we can imagine here in the United States. It is a serious sport, with many opportunities to play at the professional level.
“For someone who loves soccer as Brian does, it is the epitome of his career thus far to be recognized for his talents by a premier soccer program.”
While competing in an Olympic Development Program for Indiana in July, Wolverton was invited to pursue the RIASA opportunity.
The more research Wolverton did into the Richmond Academy, the more excited he became.
“Playing matches the whole year against English and other European clubs should be an amazing chance to witness first hand many different styles in the game,” said Wolverton, who led the Arabians (12-3-1) with 16 goals and 13 assists last fall in his final prep season. “As I grow as a player, I’ll have chances to be scouted. If I am able to impress the right people it may set me up for a professional career – which would be a dream come true. I am very excited to see how much better I will be compared to where I am at now.”
The graduating Pendleton Heights left mid/center mid plans to pursue a degree in International Business with Sports Management. RIASA also offers coaching licensure courses that Wolverton hopes will expand his soccer knowledge.
RIASA is soccer-only institution: all of the students play soccer (or to be precisely international, football). Students will have “access to top class academic and training facilities. They will be fully integrated into a University setting with all the amenities for academic and soccer success,” according to the RIASA website.
Leeds is a short distance from renowned soccer destinations Manchester (40 miles), Liverpool (60 miles) and Sheffield (30 miles). And Leeds lies on a high-speed rail route half way between London (200 miles) and Edinborough (200 miles).
“The chance to study and live in England is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” Wolverton said. “If a professional soccer career doesn’t work out, I feel comfortable knowing that I will have a degree that could still keep me close to the game.”
Wolverton was grateful to his parents for their years of support. He pointed out that his father was instrumental in getting Wolverton to the ODP tourney, from which sprung the RIASA opportunity. The Arabians’ standout also thanked all of his coaches along the way, including Holden and PH coach Kyle Davy.
Holden, who also serves as the USF Real director of coaching, has made multiple soccer-related trips to England, and he knows first-hand the experience Wolverton is about to enjoy.
“The amount of training Brian will receive in England will be exponentially greater than what is offered, or even allowed, in the U.S.” Holden said. “There are many levels of soccer and many routes to be a professional player in England that are not afforded here in the U.S.
“Even starting out as a freshman, there will be many opportunities to play and improve, rather than sitting on a bench as many freshmen experience in their first year of college in the U.S.”
For more information on the RIASA, visit riasa.org.