Next Level Training with Aaron Bryd
A series of injuries derailed Aaron Bryd’s dream of playing professional soccer in Europe.
It did nothing to curb his passion for the game.
So Aaron gravitated to coaching, although not the traditional kind, such as leading a travel, high school or even college team.
Instead he found his greatest satisfaction in the individual development of young athletes through technical training (first touches, skill moves, etc.), position-based knowledge and general tactical proficiencies.
Away from the pressures of parents and politics and playing time, let alone the final score, everything was about turning players into the best versions of themselves in every imaginable way. It was about developing a system that both taught and inspired. It also allowed him to work with them for years, often starting in grade school and continuing all the way through college in a fun, challenging and supportive environment.
“I most enjoyed connecting with the player on an individual level and then seeing that growth,” Byrd said.
And so “Next Level Training” was born some two decades ago. It has grown into a soccer empire in Metro Detroit.
Working out of six locations, with a full time staff of eight trainers, NLT counts nearly 1,500 players in its weekly in-season program and another 1,300 during weekly summer camps that now stretch across the State of Michigan.
Aaron has trained over 750 college players, both men and women, including players at Stanford, Duke, UCLA, Florida State, Michigan and other top programs. He’s worked with 50 professionals and about a dozen who have played for various men’s and women’s national teams. His high school team training program has helped deliver numerous state championships.
Many players began working with him at six and seven years olds. Others have traveled across the country to seek his expertise.
His full time staff – Scotty Wright, Renato Susnja, Dylan Dorley, Connor Ballantyne and Belal Khoulani – has been with him for years. Each has turned down coaching opportunities elsewhere to continue with this unique culture and community.
The teaching ranks increase in the summer when a who’s who of NCAA soccer come to Michigan to work NLT camps during the day and train at night under Byrd’s system.
The result is more than just soft first touches and sublime crossovers.
Aaron is a family man – he and his wife Lisa have four children – he is also proud of this soccer family he has built. Almost every great player in Metro Detroit trains with him and they come from all major and minor travel clubs, high schools and colleges.
“Our trainers have no travel club affiliation,” Byrd said. “We want to be Switzerland. It’s how we are able to focus on the individual and nothing else.”
It’s not uncommon for players to train together at NLT one day and compete against each other the next. Even as they get to the high school and college levels, group texts and training apps connect them.
It’s all part of a system that brings the most motivated young players together to maximize their abilities and share their love of the game. Through a proprietary training program and expert coaching, players often see quick and steady improvement.
“I have two sons and a daughter who train with Aaron and there is nothing else like it,” said parent Andrea Clark. “It’s not just the teaching. It’s the fun. Even when they grow tired of their travel team practices, they jump at the chance to go to NLT. It’s a supportive environment so they never ask to skip." "They have become much better players, but also much happier players.”
Maybe he didn’t make it to the European pro ranks, but for Aaron Byrd, his impact on soccer in Michigan and beyond is far greater and still growing.
“Working with these players, whether it’s the youngest one just learning or someone late to the game trying to make a high school team or a college All American brings me every day happiness,” Aaron said.
“It doesn’t matter what level you start at,” he continued. “I get so much out of watching them improve their skills which then improves their confidence. And when you play with confidence, you play your best and you enjoy the game even more.”