On one side of the coin: Two successful seasons in the TSA Development League, each year winning the league title and the cup trophy are not a fluke. Our '01 Phoenix girls basically demonstrated that even with only a little help of USC Academy training one can achieve success.
On the other side of the coin: A successful season playing on a co-ed academy team is not so easy. But our '00 academy girls stepped up their game, in many ways surpassing their male counterparts. When that team travelled to Michigan, winning the Force Tournament, playing against boys, playing one year up, everybody knew something had to come of this.
In response, USC laid the foundation by combining all female United SC players and USC Academy players in a once a week 'Combine' training session. Currently the girls train together at Havergal College. So how is this program going to work and what does it entail for players?
"The idea is to create an all female pool of players, born '03-'00. Those players should have a common goal and an agenda to reach their best potential. USC will assist to make that happen," offers Klaus Baedorf, technical director and president of the USC Academy. "While this program is academy driven, it also includes all United SC players sharing the same goals."
So far all Combine sessions have been well attended, but it is anticipated that building a program like that will take two to three years.
"For example: We have set a short time goal to have a full '00 girls team by 2013. In the meanwhile the players will train together and with the help of some '01 players, enjoy selected tournament competition and occasional friendly games against other clubs or academies in 2012. In addition, our '00s are committed to play on the academy co-ed team participating in regular league competition. If it should happen that we have enough quality players, the plan is to field a '00 team in the 2012 TSA Development League as well.
We already have 2 female teams, born '02 and '01, lined up to play in the 2012 TSA Development League. The nice thing is that a few of those players also play on our academy co-ed teams."
USC has taken a patient approach with this program.
"Parents especially need to understand and grow with what is offered to them. What at first seems complicated on paper, is actually very simple.
Because all players train with the same coaches, using the same methodology, everybody understands what is expected of them. The LTPD (Long Term Player Development) model has been with USC since its inception in 2001, so nobody will be left out. There are training and playing opportunities for all ages and levels. I know this sounds cocky, but all it takes are the 3A's: acknowledge, agree, adapt."
This has been an important factor in the way USC runs their programs.
Unlike other academies and clubs, USC has accepted players into their programs that clearly were not 'elite' players.
"Besides looking for athletic ability, we give priority to coachability, willingness to learn and academic excellence. A weak player today can be a strong player tomorrow. If you look at the younger age groups, anything can happen, even from month to month. So we look at the big picture, the long term...not NOW."
USC seems to have the knack of creating a program where the only pressure comes from the player herself. That pressure is manifested in the desire to do better, every time you step on the pitch. Outside pressure, for example parental pressure, is not accepted.
Some girls come to USC who are disgruntled with rep soccer. While the quality of training has gone up, in many cases the joy in playing the game has gone down. Some girls feel so anxious the night before a game, they can't sleep.
At many clubs, a player now has to approach their Technical Director to discuss their reasons for leaving. Some clubs even tell players that they are not allowed to get additional training through any type of outside organization.
Klaus Baedorf explains: "This scenario is exactly what we try to avoid. We like to create a player focused, player friendly environment, where these pressure situations don't even become necessary. We have the 'niche' for every type of female player, creating opportunities for every level of play. This means there is no need to look elswhere."
Indeed, a player can choose many paths at USC: Training only or in combination with House League, Development Teams in the OSA stream and/or Academy stream (SAAC). What is more important, the coaches understand the difference between training a female athlete and their male counter part.
There are differences in how girls respond to instruction or authority.
A coach training females needs to guide, not direct. He needs to lead, not drive, and be effective without being intimidating.
He must show he cares and let them know that the player-coach relationship is never in jeopardy.
In the end, the ultimate goal might be to play for a college or university team, perhaps even a professional or semi-professional team. Looking at the USC Program, it seems there are many other positive by-products when a person learns to achieve excellence.
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Player Pool: '03-'99
2012 Teams: '03 co-ed / '02 girls / '02 co-ed / '01 girls / '01 co-ed '00 girls / '00 co-ed Female players interested in this program should contact the USC Academy.
Phone 416 409 2260
or contact us by email.