PORTAGE | Don't get Will Fortenberry wrong, he respects the success Lake County has had recently in high school soccer.
"What's it been? (How many) titles in the last three years?" Fortenberry said while referring to Lake Central's single-class boys title in 2010 followed by Crown Point's 2A boys titles in 2012 and 2013.
"That's what a good feeder system will do; that's what a good soccer academy will do like the Chicago Fire Juniors in Crown Point," Fortenberry said. "That's what we're trying to establish here.
"When I played soccer at Portage High School, we looked forward to beating up on Crown Point. Now, the tables have turned."
Fortenberry, a 2007 PHS grad, has since returned to his alma mater as the assistant boys soccer coach and is the Portage Parks Youth Soccer League director.
At the urging of Fortenberry's former coach, AJ Monroe — who recently resigned from his second stint at head coach at PHS — Portage Parks started the Indoor Soccer Academy, a youth program that holds twice-a-week training sessions and Saturday games for ages 7-14 at Woodland Park.
Fortenberry is the director of the academy.
"When incoming freshman come to play at the high school, most will say they've played soccer their whole life," Fortenberry said, "but for the most part, they do not know how to properly pass the ball to the feet and much more."
"I don't want to take anything away from (volunteer youth league) coaches because most do the best that they can and they're doing it for the kids. But it takes knowledge of the game and a lot of time to properly teach the basics."
Assisting Fortenberry are fellow Indians alumni Ross Bailey and Christian Cherry, and Portage girls head coach Gina Swenson.
"It was essential to have Gina be a part of our training team to help get more girls involved in Portage soccer," said Fortenberry, who also teaches at the high school. "We have not had a girls JV program for two seasons."
The inaugural session of the Portage Indoor Soccer Academy started several weeks ago. The second session is due to start Jan. 6, and signups are currently underway.
Fortenberry hopes the next session will have greater girls turnout. He also wishes that more novice youth coaches would attend the free coaches clinics offered periodically throughout the year by Portage Parks.
"There are also lesson plans online with the Indiana Youth Soccer, (but) people do not use them," Fortenberry said.
In addition to his staff and former coach, Fortenberry credits Portage Parks Sports Coordinator Ralph Mundt for helping the academy get started and gain a foothold.
"(Mundt) has been a huge help administratively as well as with organizing dates, times ... paper work," Fortenberry said.