Friday Aug 14 2009
Still kicking in Santa Clara
By: Andrew Eggers, Press Tribune Correspondent
Roseville's Bates back on West Coast
After leaving a major mark on the local soccer scene and enjoying big success in his one season as a member of the Roseville High varsity squad, Mykell Bates disappeared from the local radar while making his name as an elite player at an entirely different level. Set to enter his sophomore season on the UC Santa Clara men’s soccer team, Bates has taken a unique path that included captaining the U.S. National Team’s under-17 unit as it cracked the round of 16 in the 2007 FIFA World Cup. Bates scored three goals in that tournament while attending the Edison Academic Center in Bradenton, Fla., the National Team’s residency program. Before entering that program, Bates was a highly skilled freshman striker, and a big part of the Tigers’ 2004 Sac-Joaquin Section championship team. After graduating from Edison in 2008, Bates moved on to Santa Clara, where he sat out the final six games of his freshman campaign due to a concussion and trauma to the spinal cord suffered after colliding with another player and falling awkwardly. After a full recovery, he was busy this summer playing for the Seattle Wolves of the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League, which is top-level amateur competition. “That was a great experience and it helped a lot to be able to get into shape for the upcoming season,” Bates said. Santa Clara head coach, Cameron Rast, said that Bates has attributes of quickness, toughness and the ability to concentrate, all which lend themselves towards being a great defender. “When you watch him on the field, one thing you notice is his ability to compete,” Rast said. “His one-on-one defending is outstanding…winning the ball from his opponent is one of his strengths.” Rast was the assistant coach to John Ellinger for the under-17 team when Edison opened in 2001 and still does some scouting for the National Team. Some of the players he coached were current National Team members Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu. “(At 5-foot-9, Bates is) not tall in terms of height, but he has an amazing sense to read the flight of the ball and to leap,” Rast said. “He can definitely jump out of the gym. It makes him a great weapon defensively trying to win balls and on the attack he can be a dangerous player on set pieces.” “You can always expect tenacity in being the hard-working defender that I am,” Bates said. “These past couple of months I’ve been working on my touch and being a smarter, more intelligent player.” Daily life in residency consisted of weight training and conditioning starting at 5 a.m. before attending class from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. School was followed by a 90-minute practice and then mental motivation training, which helped focus the players’ ultimate goal on winning the World Cup, and finally a curfew of 9:45 p.m. “The only way (me and my family) stayed connected was by phone, e-mails and pictures so it was a tough deal, especially being 16 and 17-years-old,” Bates said. Along the way, Bates made lots of friends and built numerous bridges including close ties with National Team member Josmer Altidore and FC Dallas’ Anthony Wallace of Major League Soccer. “We always used to have what we called ‘barbershop time’ when Anthony Wallace would cut my hair and we would just joke around like kids would do if they were locked up,” Bates said. “Naturally (Bates) emerges as a leader,” Rast said. “He has a very charismatic personality. He’s very likeable, but at the same time very competitive…that’s a good formula for a leader.” Bates enjoyed his time in residency using soccer as a motivational tool and noted that it made his transition to collegiate soccer easier than the average freshman out of high school. “The commitment I made before I first left (to Florida) was that I wasn’t going to let my parents down and I was going to make the Bates family proud,” Bates said. “I’ve always been a disciplined player growing up and so I kept to my word.” After giving a speech at his classes’ commencement, Bates embarked on his career at Santa Clara along with fellow classmate Brandon Zimmerman. After spending two years in Florida away from his family, Bates said the decision to attend school in California was an easy to make. “Since I’ve played so many games across the nation, I wanted my parents and family to be able to watch some of my collegiate games,” Bates said. “Family, the location, and the soccer prestige at Santa Clara were the three main things I based my decision on.” In the Broncos’ workouts this past spring, Rast called Bates the ‘best player on the field’ in terms of his ability on both sides of the ball while constantly encouraging his teammates. “The challenges for Mykell are to continue to develop,” Rast said. “He developed very early and was physically, mentality and emotionally mature so he was able to handle leaving home at a young age to train in a very professional environment (at Edison).” “Right now he’s playing center-back for us, last year he played a little wide-back. We’re going to continue working on his development in those two positions in the hopes that he can get a look and make a mark on the national level.” Bates’ goal is to eventually play professionally overseas in the next few years and hopefully earn a spot on the National Team down the road, but understands that he has to continue to work on his craft in the meantime. “When you get into the professional and national ranks, it’s another step up and level of development, and we hope to have him ready as we go forward,” Rast said.