School builds relationship with Italian soccer club

By Julius Pak

A.C. Milan, the reigning champions of Italy’s premier soccer league Serie A, is pursuing youth development in conjunction with Harvard-Westlake. The relationship between A.C. Milan and Harvard-Westlake began last spring.

“It’s easy for people to only see the athletic side of the club, but it’s really much more comprehensive than that,” President Thomas C. Hudnut said. “They want to be involved with a place that’s perusing high level research into adolescent sport injuries and health.”

A.C. Milan sent a local representative to visit after hearing about research conducted by the Harvard-Westlake Institute for Sport Science and Medicine, an institute that works with researchers across Los Angeles regarding injuries. The goal of the program is to provide care for injuries, research treatments for injuries, and to educate students on injuries, Associate Head of School and Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas said.

“We started talking,” Barzdukas said. “We started exploring. That’s how it goes.”

A.C. Milan invited representatives from Harvard-Westlake to visit their facilities in Milan. Last summer, Barzdukas, Athletic Director Terry Barnum and Athletic Trainer Milo Sini traveled to Italy to meet with Michele Ferraris, head of the club’s youth development. The delegation visited the Milanello, its training center and home to many components of the youth system. The main focus of the relationship with the club is to enhance youth development.

“Everything they do is for the development of the child,” Barzdukas said. “They understand that when you have 35,000 kids [in the youth system], you only have eighteen on that roster who are going to play against Juventus. But for the rest of them they want to have good lives.”

Harvard-Westlake hopes to utilize A.C. Milan’s youth development methods on the school’s soccer program.

“[A.C. Milan] has a soccer curriculum,” Barzdukas said. “So we get their technique and their curriculum for our coaches to apply.”

This spring, a local representative of the club will come to Harvard-Westlake to look at the varsity soccer program and will work with boys’ soccer program head coach Freddy Arroyo. More members of A.C. Milan’s staff will visit over the summer. In exchange for helping out Harvard-Westlake’s soccer program, A.C. Milan hopes to expand its brand in the United States, which Barzdukas describes as an untapped market in soccer.

“Among their goals is to expand their brand awareness around the world,” Barzdukas said. “It helps that our colors are the right colors. They are one of the biggest sports brands in the world and we are one of the best academic brands in the world.”