Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Frisco Liberty's Stian Sandbekkhaug more than just a special name after spurning academy system
FRISCO – Stian Sandbekkhaug’s name and ancestry aren’t the only things that make him unique.
The Frisco Liberty forward, born in Canada to a Norwegian father and Filipino mother, has stood out among Dallas-area soccer players this season.
Sandbekkhaug (whose name is pronounced: stee-in sand-BEK-howg) ranks second in the area with 29 goals and first with 19 assists. The senior has propelled Liberty to a No. 1 ranking among area Class 4A schools.
All of that success has only been possible, though, because Sandbekkhaug decided last summer to forego a dream to play academy soccer and return to his high school team.
“When I was little I always thought that when I turned 16 I’d try and go academy,” Sandbekkhaug said. “But I like my club team, and high school soccer isn’t something I want to give up.”
In 2012 the United States Soccer Federation barred academy soccer players from competing on high school teams. The rule was created to aid in the development of young athletes and make the United States more competitive internationally.
Sandbekkhaug said he was offered a spot as a sophomore on Andromeda FC, one of four DFW-area academies. After leading Liberty to the second round of the playoffs last season, he had only one year left to take the academy up on its offer.
But after conversations with his coach and parents and a week of indecisiveness, Sandbekkhaug decided against playing for Andromeda. Not only would the academy route have meant leaving his high school team behind, but it meant leaving his successful FC Dallas Premier club, which is readying for its second appearance at the Dallas Cup.
Sandbekkhaug’s club and high school teams still offered enough exposure that he received a scholarship offer from Valparaiso in October and signed soon after.
“Academy is great and I think it’s helping U.S. soccer,” Liberty coach Fred Kaiser said, “but a lot of kids I talk to, by the time they’re done with academy, they’re just tired and burnt out. High school soccer is a chance for them to have fun in high school.”
A number of area players have sacrificed the academy route to play high school soccer.
Duncanville coach Nuno Passos, whose team is ranked third in the area, said he has a handful of players that could be in academy programs but chose high school. That group includes his son Damion, who earned a scholarship to Hill College.
Frisco Wakeland goalkeeper Sam Whaley returned this season after a year away with the Dallas Texans. Center midfielder Ryan Ward, who played for both the FC Dallas and Dallas Texans academies, returned to Wakeland for his senior season in 2012.
“For those absolute top players, they should go academy,” Wakeland coach Rusty Oglesby said. “That makes sense. But for the other 98 percent, they should play high school ball.”
Sandbekkhaug, who was a first-team all-area selection last year, has no regrets about his decision to stick with high school soccer.
Liberty got off to a 19-0-0 start before suffering its first loss last week -- a 3-2 defeat by Frisco Heritage in which Sandbekkhaug had a goal and an assist.
Liberty can clinch a District 18-4A championship in its season finale Tuesday night against Frisco.
“I couldn’t leave these guys,” Sandbekkhaug said. “I couldn’t just leave them after three years.”