USSDA for Girls- First Impressions

It has begun… the first month of the USSDA for Girls is in the books and many of the questions that have swirled over the last year have been answered.  Here’s a rundown of the some of the positives and potential negatives.

POSITIVES

There are many, many great things about the academy program that apply to all girls…

  • Status- Girls soccer is now elevated to the same status as boys soccer and “impacts everyday club environments to develop world-class players.” The league seems to be very organized and professional.
  • Female Mentors-  Each region has a female Technical Advisor to guide clubs.  There is a great deal of oversight by US Soccer.
  • Practice Environment- Girls are practicing four days a week including conditioning designed to prevent injuries.  In addition to helping to produce skilled and conditioned girls, the frequent togetherness fosters team bonding.
  • Game Day- Games are played on beautiful fields with good referees (well…) and frequently have US Soccer representatives and college coaches in attendance.  It is also nice to have all teams from the same club play at the same location back to back.  The schedule is well paced and gives teams adequate rest.  It’s also fun to see the girls “walk out” with the referees before the game.
  • Game Video- Every DA game is recorded and shared with coaches and players via Hudl.  This is an excellent learning opportunity for all and an easy way to get highlights to show college coaches.
  • Game Reports- Published detailed game reports show starters, minutes played, goals scored and cards given.  
  • Showcases- Although the first showcase isn’t until December, they look to be well organized and attended by college coaches and scouts.
  • The Patch- Just sayin’ 🙂

POTENTIAL NEGATIVES

  • No High School Soccer- Girls aren’t allowed to play HS soccer.  Although this takes away a lot of potential for injury, it also doesn’t allow girls to have the experience of playing for their school, meeting a bunch of new friends and having a place to “belong” at school.
  • Four practices a week- Practicing four days a week is a big adjustment- especially with the workload of high school.  Will this impact girls’ ability to excel academically? Girls also are very reticent to miss any practices (regardless of injuries or schoolwork) for fear that they won’t play on the weekend.  Is this going to lead to burn out for girls?
  • Substitution Rules/Playtime- Strict substitution rules dictate no re-entry and only 5 subs per game making things difficult for both coaches and the girls. Seems like the norm is having the “top” 6-7 girls play the whole game with the rest either playing half or very limited minutes…and some not at all.  Girls may ignore injuries to stay in the game- especially if all subs have been used.
  • Game Reports- Are very detailed, but can be really hard for girls who didn’t get the minutes or start that they wanted and it’s all there for anyone to read.  There is also quite a bit of personal information readily available which may make some people uncomfortable.

The DA is very clear about its goal of developing girls for the National Team and the league is clearly set up for those girls.  For the top girls there may be some negatives such as making it to the four practices, but other than that there are so, so many positives including opportunities to play up and better exposure and competition.  The problem is that a very, very small percentage of girls will actually ever make a National Team pool, much less the actual full team.  

I know the purpose of the limited substitution is to develop a style of play that doesn’t rely on athleticism while aligning with FIFA standards. This system rewards and showcases top players and can put coaches in a bind when it comes to the rest.  I think most coaches really care about their players and find it difficult if they can’t reward hard work with playtime.  The interesting thing is that college soccer has a very different, almost unlimited, substitution policy.  Hmm… I wonder if college programs will change to reflect the DA or will the DA consider bending their rules to something similar to ECNL sub rules?  Will girls be prepared for the pace of college soccer by playing in the DA and focusing on “the beautiful game?”  We recently went and watched a local top women’s college program and when I asked how the game was, LSG’s teammate said, “Our coach would have been really upset with us if we played like that!”

It’s just the beginning… plenty of excitement yet to come.  The most important things to my kid?  Her coach and her teammates and she loves them all.  What do you think about the USSDA for Girls?

If you want to read more about the USSDA for Girls…

US Soccer Development Academy Site

Development Academy- Counting the Cost

Timing is Everything- Girls Development Academy

US Soccer Development Academy for Girls