Walker was fortunate to have basketball in his life growing up as it kept him out of trouble and ultimately got him a College scholarship and a very successful career that concluded with him being inducted into his University's Basketball Hall of Fame. "Participating in "sports" can be a tremendous resource for many athletes who were born with God given talent, that strive to be the best as long as they have a program to fully develop them."
“I never played soccer,” Walker admitted to Diane Scavuzzo of SoccerNation News. “It wasn’t really part of my generation.
That all changed as an adult when his passion for the world’s beautiful game grew exponentially. In 1999, Walker organized his Club by creating a Non-profit Foundation in order to provide a resource for underprivileged youth soccer players in the Los Angeles area and beyond. With the creation of Barcelona USA (aka: Total Futbol Academy) – Walker set out to provide a "vehicle" for top elite youth soccer athletes to develop their god given talents in order for them to someday use their soccer playing abilities to attend College on a soccer scholarship.
Walker chose to follow his dream of pioneering a new path in the world of youth soccer by studying and emulating some of the biggest European Pro Academies. This was an intelligent and successful decision for Walker and the access has paid huge dividends for the club since the beginning.
In 1999, Walker started his program with only four teams and by the end of the year three of them had ended up as a State Cup Champions. Since then, the club has continued to build on its past reputation of intense, unique player development philosophy, advanced level of play that ultimately translates to success on the pitch. For Walker success on the soccer field is secondary to the overall mission of getting his players into College someday.
Through all of Walkers research and experiences abroad, it was clear to him that the concept & style of “total fútbol” would become the standard system of play for his club to follow.
In order for his club to adapt to this system, it was imperative that his coaching staff was well-trained in the philosophy. So, to that end, Walker and TFA annually send their coaches to train in Barcelona, Spain.
In the US, the norm is to have a coaching staff that operates independently of each other including their own style & philosophy. One of the reasons Walker feels TFA is so successful is that it has a singular philosophy on player development as well as a game-day strategy that provides an easy and fluid transition for the players as they age in the academy. He believes they have a true philosophy on how to develop players and a system of play with specific building blocks that are the hallmarks of success.
The result of this focus has been more than just the on-field power that opponents have had to face over the years. Paul Walker’s teams have reached a level where they consistently win at every level, however that is a result of their focus on player development. For Walker, it’s not about bringing home trophies, but about developing his players to their fullest potential as per their European counterparts.
Walker knows that a player’s talent is an important piece of the puzzle – however soccer intelligence and being technically sound are a must for any player to have success at the highest levels in today’s competitive youth soccer world. Asked how an “average” player is different from a college-bound or professional player, Walker explained that the answer lies in what's known as "speed of play." In other words, the ability to rapidly execute on a thought with or without the ball. “Total fútbol” embodies the full concept of this.
Walker is also known for identifying top performing youth soccer players. One shining example of that came on April 14, 2011, when then-ten-year-old Ben Lederman was signed by FC Barcelona’s Academy, making him their first ever American-born player. Lederman was a highly talented youth who came to Barça’s attention as part of a travel team from Walkers Club that traveled to Barcelona to compete against the giant Catalan Club in April 2010. By early 2011, Walker had requested a tryout for Ben to the Barca brass that ultimately was granted. This momentous opportunity eventually culminated with Ben being offered a spot in their academy. Walker is proud to have been a part of Lederman’s once in a lifetime opportunity.
Exploring the wide world of youth soccer: Walker believes that international travel is one of the elements of the TFA program that helps all players grow both personally and athletically. Starting in the Spring of 2010 the Club began taking their BU10 Academy teams to compete against FC Barcelona’s Academy. For many of the young athletes of TFA that were fortunate to participate, this trip has been one of the greatest experiences of their lives. In 2014 the club then decided to up the antie by taking their BU12 Academy players to compete against the giant European academies of the world at the Mediterranean International Cup (MIC). This decision has paid dividends for Walkers Club as they have had tremendous success in terms of results at the MIC by regularly advancing to the quarter finals and beyond. These trips have also opened the door to allow his program to begin building relationships with some of the biggest European Pro Academies of the world such as Manchester United FC, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid to name a few.
“International travel is key for young players to gain international recognition,” said Walker. “It helps them to mature as young soccer players but more importantly it allows them to be exposed to cultures they’ve never seen or imagined before. It also helps to remove the cloud of uncertainty in terms of their ability to compete at the highest international levels.”
In 1999 when Walker founded his club, he was determined to build a turn-key competitive program. Looking back, he never would have imagined that his efforts would be as successful as they have turned out to be.
“It’s important for me to make a difference in the lives of kids, especially underprivileged youth, who would never have had the same opportunities I had as an athlete,” said Walker. Dedicated to eliminating the "pay-to-play" model rampant in the U.S., Walkers relentless mission is dedicated on securing financial support in order to fully fund his academy project.
Today Walker’s soccer club is not only well known and respected throughout the US, it is well known and respected throughout the world.