US Soccer Development Academy for Girls

USsocccerdevgirlsUS Soccer has been busy this year with the introduction of the new age level guidelines and now the US Soccer Development Academy for Girls beginning in the Fall of 2017.  The boys have had a development academy for many years, but this is new for girls.  Here’s some information taken directly from their website:

The Girls’ Development Academy is part of U.S. Soccer’s global leadership position in women’s soccer and connects with its long-term plan to improve player and coach development. The mission of the program is to provide education, resources and support to directly impact the everyday environment for clubs to develop world-class female players.

Creating the Girls’ Development Academy provides the elite female player with an improved player development model in which players can focus on training with the appropriate number and level of games. This model focuses on developing the individual player within the club environment, which allows for additional training sessions per season to enhance player development.

Since I only have girls, I wasn’t really familiar with the boys’ academy.  I only had heard that it was free to play and that the boys weren’t allowed to play high school ball.  That’s sort of true and here are some of the interesting things about the girls academy from their FAQ

  • They aren’t sure how many clubs will be accepted (Applications opened May 2, 2016 and will close in July)
  • Coaches will be expected to have an A or B license
  • There will be a minimum of four training sessions a week during the 10 month season
  • Girls will NOT be allowed to play in any other soccer programs (High School soccer)
  • Rosters will span two years and be fluid with approximately 23 per age group starting at U14
  • There will be some travel with approximately 15 away games per year- some requiring overnight travel
  • It is NOT free, but US Soccer subsidizes some of the cost

This is all interesting, but really the most intriguing thing to me is the conflict between the Development Academy and the ECNL.  (It’s always about the drama with girls, isn’t it??  haha)  In February, representatives from both sides had a “closed door meeting” to discuss possible collaboration, but evidently came out determined to move forward separately. Read about it here and here.  Basically, US Soccer wants to mirror the boys program, and the ECNL believes that girls have different needs- especially because their post youth playing opportunities are different.  US Soccer is also concerned that not all ECNL coaches have A or B licenses, while the ECNL maintains that it isn’t possible throughout the country to find qualifying coaches.

ECNL really set the stage for a National program for girls that US Soccer previously didn’t think was a possibility. Regardless, the two programs are determined to move on separately.  This is great news for top clubs that weren’t a part of ECNL that might get the chance to be a part of the Development Academy (think Beach FC and Legends FC in Southern California), but how many girls are willing to forgo the opportunity to play HS soccer with their friends?  Obviously there will be elite players that are interested in focusing their whole life on club soccer, but how much time will be left for academics, friends and other activities?  Here is a thought provoking interview with Anson Dorrance (very respected coach of University of North Carolina) about his pledge to be loyal to the ECNL, thoughts about girls playing HS soccer, coaching licenses and the fear of becoming too bureaucratic and structured.

I will leave you with a quote from Anson Dorrance…“I think we have evidence of how extraordinary we are on the girls side right now. And we should mine the reasons why. We don’t have to follow someone else’s methodology. Because let me tell you something — we are the world f****** champions.”

What do you think about a girls’ academy?  Would your daughter be interested?  What do you think about girls not being allowed to play High School soccer?

Some further reading…

USSF Development Academy Has it All Wrong

US Soccer to Launch Development Academy in Fall of 2017

Why USA’s Development Academy is Long Overdue

US Soccer’s Development Academy and ECNL