Academics is one of those important things, and the Ball Ground teenager sees class work as being more difficult than it ever had been before.
The junior left Creekview to be home-schooled this semester after earning a coveted spot in the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy.
A defenseman who has also played for the Georgia United club team, Mitchell has started all 13 games this season with the U.S. academy — just one of three players on the 23-player roster to do so. The team travels up and down the East Coast 10 months out of the year.
Stewart’s mother, Calys, travels along with the team. She said her son works ahead on his schoolwork when he is home and then does as much as he can when the team is on the road for a weekend.
“Traveling so much is the biggest challenge,” said Malcolm Stewart. “Keeping up with school and traveling is the hardest.”
As proud as the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Stewart is to have been selected for the academy, his biggest honor came in December. He was spotted at a showcase in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., and invited to join Jamaica’s under-17 national team.
Stewart was born in the United States, but both of his parents are from Jamaica. The teen was just one of four American-born players selected for the Jamaican team.
In addition to attending training camps in Jamaica, Stewart will be competing with his team in a U-17 World Cup qualifier in Panama in April for a chance at playing in the main tournament in the United Arab Emirates in October.
For Stewart, soccer began when he was 6 years old in a recreational league in New York. His father, Winston, played high school and college soccer in the Caribbean and provided him with instruction early on.
By the time the family moved to Georgia in 2005, Malcolm Stewart was a 9-year-old starting to shine.
“When he was very young, you could tell,” Calys Stewart said. “My husband coached Malcolm. I would say that everything Malcolm knows in soccer, he was taught by Winston.”
Malcolm Stewart played in the Cherokee Soccer Association at first, but he was soon progressing up the club team circuit. He played for Cherokee Impact for a couple years before moving on to Stars Soccer Club in Alpharetta when he was 11. From there, he moved on to Forsyth Fusion Soccer for a year, and he eventually he worked his way on to a Region 3 Premier League team, Norcross Academy, where he was a team captain.
Stewart played two years of soccer at Creekview, lettering in both his freshman and sophomore years while playing offense, his non-dominant position — and earning offensive MVP honors.
Following the 2012 high school season, Stewart was picked up by the U.S. Developmental Academy, which is the feeder program for the U.S. Soccer Federation.
“Their philosophy and goal is to have the best available pool of soccer players that will be able to play for the national team,” Winston Stewart said. “The USSF is the feeder program for players who will either represent the country, go to college or are going directly to the MLS. That is the highest level of youth soccer in the country, and that is where (Malcolm) is currently at.”
Malcolm Stewart, who said he watches Creekview soccer games when he can, said it was hard to leave his friends at the school, but that in order to follow his dreams, he had to make the move.
Stewart, who believes his speed is his biggest asset, said he’s had to adjust as he moved up through the levels of the game. Not only that, but playing with the Jamaican team has exposed him to a different style of play.
“The academy is a much higher level than high school,” said Stewart, who said he enjoys the challenge. “The players are much more technical and the speed of the game is much faster.”
As for international play, Stewart says it’s a big honor, and that he is already making friends on the Jamaican team.
“They move the ball differently than they do up here,” he said. “It’s a big adjustment.”
Stewart also does volunteer work, both while he’s home in Cherokee County and while he is traveling to Jamaica to visit family.
He is already drawing some college attention. Stony Brook, St. John’s and Georgia Southern are among those interested.
“Academics always come first in our household,” Winston Stewart said. “Soccer is a vehicle to get him to college with some financial assistance. That is why we are home-schooling him, so that he doesn’t fall behind on his academics when he has to travel. He definitely has the potential to play in college.”