As the second part of the USSDA season is about to begin after the winter break, I realized that in all the craziness of the holidays I never wrote about the inaugural USSDA Winter Showcase for Girls which took place December 6-10 in Sarasota, Florida. I was really curious about how a DA Showcase would compare to an ECNL Showcase and here’s what we found…
Venue | First of all, USSDA put on a fabulous event. The Premier Sports Complex outside Sarasota in Lakewood Ranch was beautiful. The fields were well maintained and the set up was pretty amazing with numerous tents and stations with lots of complimentary water and Powerade for all. There was a giant entry arch (pictured above) as well as a team photo op, ice baths and more.
Weather | One bummer was the weather… it was super hot for 3 days and then it poured and was really cold for the next three. Good thing my hubby is an amateur weatherman and told us to bring jackets. (OK, I know I’m super wimpy because I’m a California girl, but sitting in the pouring rain in 55-degree weather is not my idea of fun. And also not my idea of Florida!) But, games went on as scheduled in the rain which was great.
Competition | Teams played three games over four days with one off day. An interesting fact about a USSDA Showcase is that all the games actually count in the standings. Teams are seeded as a result of their placement in their respective conferences with the higher teams playing the higher teams etc… This hypothetically makes for some great games but isn’t exactly “fair” for the standings- especially for our conference which is relatively strong throughout. I know that developing is a priority over winning, but only a certain amount of teams play in the playoffs at the end of the season. An ECNL Showcase is just that- a showcase. Results do not count in the standings.
College Coaches | There were LOTS of college coaches at this event. Our team had around 60 coaches at most of our games…even in the rain! There were so many that L almost had to ask someone to move so that she could take a corner. Personally, I don’t know any college coaches, but I heard through the grapevine that they had some complaints about the event. I think it had something to do with that most of the age level played at the same time so it was difficult to see multiple girls- especially with the restrictive substitution rules. The complex was also very large and I didn’t see many golf carts to shuttle coaches around. USSDA did provide a pretty cool roster book with all the teams and players listed that looked like it could have been helpful for the coaches. I know the ECNL Showcases have always attracted many, many coaches so I think it was similar.
Travel | Florida is pretty far from Southern California and this was an expensive trip for us. It also required that girls miss at least four days of school. L was fortunate in that her finals didn’t take place until January, but other girls either had to take finals early or miss important preparation. Even without finals, it was definitely not an easy thing to miss that much school. U.S. Soccer did provide the girls with a letter to give to their schools, but work still needs to be made up and tests need to be taken. Having the rule about not playing three games in a row makes for an extra day of travel, hotel and missed school. ECNL Showcases are also three games but are played three days in a row. As with most big events, teams were required to use the tournament reservation system (ugh!) to secure rooms.
National Team Connection | US Soccer had several of the women’s youth national teams also in Florida for the Nike International Friendlies. This was a great opportunity for girls to watch an international competition and I thought it was a wonderful idea.
Things to Do | With only three games over four-five days, our team did have some downtime. It was a little bit difficult to find a balance between study time, free time and team events but we had a lot of fun. Our team visited the Myakka River State Park and took a boat tour. It was pretty funny (and reminded some of us of the Jungle Safari ride at Disneyland) but the girls had a good time looking for alligators and other wildlife. Sarasota also has beautiful beaches to visit, but we have those at home so we opted for a different type of experience. But, I think the most fun thing we did was do a team event at Escape Reality Sarasota. The girls divided into teams (offense vs defense- they wanted to do that!) and did identical escape rooms and competed to see who could “escape” by solving the mystery first. They had to work together and really enjoyed it! (And let’s just say that defense wins championships…). After the escape room time, we were able to hang out in their party room, bring in dinner and have a karaoke party. We also attended one of the U20 National Team games, but it was so, so cold we left at halftime.
Overall Impressions | I was impressed by the fields, the organization and the number of college coaches and scouts at this event and we had a great time. I think the word “professional” is an accurate descriptor. US Soccer is looking to find and develop the best players for the National Team and that’s why DA was established. Things like missing school and showcasing girls in a manner most appealing to college coaches are not their priority. Their mission is clear. Although there were many “cool” elements, it was an overall atmosphere of business rather than an ECNL Showcase feeling of fun and “isn’t it great to be a girl!”
I looked back at what I wrote about the ECNL Phoenix National Event last November and along with the beautiful complex, there was lots of emphasis on team building with silly photo ops, games and lots of awesome merchandise. (There wasn’t a ton of merchandise at the USSDA showcase but a lot of demand… wonder if there will be more at the next event!) The competition was definitely fierce, but the showcase nature of the tournament and the relatively relaxed substitution rules made for a different type of event. There were still hundreds of college coaches as well as the National Team scouts.
Both the USSDA and ECNL put on some amazing events and are great opportunities for our girls. It’s exciting for girls soccer that there are so many ways to be showcased and seen. I’m not sure what the future holds, but for now, it seems that both DA and ECNL, although very different, are pathways for our girls to get to the next level, whatever that next level may be.
Right now, L still LOVES her teammates, coach and playing DA. She’s done exceptionally well (gotta admit I’m kinda surprised) so far in her first-year of high school even with missing school and so much time devoted to soccer and travel. She’s excited for the season to begin again this weekend and the USSDA Spring Showcase in North Carolina. I’ll keep ya posted…
What were your impressions of the showcase??
If you want to read more about USSDA…