U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy Kicks Off
UPDATED: The Girls’ Development Academy Director Miriam Hickey and Women’s Technical Director April Heinrichs chatted with the press today in advance of the inaugural weekend of the Girls DA — Here is a recap:
The Basic Facts: The U.S. Soccer Development Academy Girls’ side kicked off on September 2, 2017. 6,000 players across 4 age groups at 69 youth soccer clubs in the USA hit the field on this historic weekend as the U.S. Soccer Girls’ DA launches.
Related Youth Soccer News: U.S. SOCCER GIRLS’ DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY STARTS – a Full Guide to the Girls’s DA
What really made this special was a huge effort — on the part of U.S. Soccer and many talented youth soccer coaches — in the building of a shared vision for the future.
The new league launches with a lot of excitement and high hopes on how it will help raise the level of girls soccer in the USA.
The goal is to accelerate the development of world-class female players and the youth players who will immediately benefit are those fortunate girls selected on the Girls’ DA teams — but the real opportunities extends farther than just those 6,000 identified players.
One of the values of the DA: Raising the bar on training and minimizing the Win at all Cost mentality. This benefits everyone in the sport.
Seizing the opportunity to define what player development should be and the key characteristics of the American Soccer player — at a young age — Academy Director Miriam Hickey and Women’s Technical Director April Heinrichs spoke out today.
When asked what are the key qualities that the National Youth Coaches look for, Heinrichs said clearly …
“We look for happiness.”
What is the overall goal of the Girls’ DA?
The goal is to develop players who can make smart decisions on their own in the midst of the fast action on the field.
“The key qualities we look for are players with autonomous decision-making at the highest speed possible,” said Heinrichs.
While the day-to-day responsibility falls on the shoulders of the 69 youth soccer clubs selected to participate in the inaugural Girls’ DA, U.S. Soccer is clearly providing a guiding light.
When scouting, U.S. Soccer youth scouts are looking for that depth of passion for soccer that shines bright — a pure passion that honestly reflects joy.
It is this passion for the game of soccer that enables youth players to scale the mountains of work required be a world class player — and it is that passion that makes the training a pleasure.
The purpose of the DA is to nurture this passion, create a positive training environment for players to reach their highest abilities and enhance youth soccer clubs’ desire to develop homegrown talent.
Besides happiness, what are the other key qualities they look for in players?
Everyone wants to know what top scouts look for in a youth soccer player. Specifically, here are several attributes Heinrichs said were important:
- Players who use both feet and, and all surfaces of their feet and understand how to strike the ball properly using different parts of their foot
- Players that can change directions with and without the ball
- Players that move the ball with their head up and with good vision
- Is the player aware of the defenders? Is the player able to position herself with equal distance between defenders?
- Does the player look over her shoulder before receiving the ball?
Using Abby Wambach as an iconic reference point, Henrich pointed out that this former U.S. Women’s National Team star was a player who was great with her instep and her head but not necessarily a dribbler — ending her thought with one of the great tenets of the American spirit…
We are looking for diversity.
This partial list of important attributes, which also includes how a player moves off the ball and a strong emphasis on defending qualities critical for success –on the top of the list are loving the game and the ability to demonstrate fast-thinking, decision-making abilities.
“I wish it was available when I was growing up — to practice 4 times a week with other players who were on the same level — that would have been wonderful,” said Hickey.
MLS Teams get involved in Girls’ DA
In this first Girls’ DA 2017-2018 season, there are four MLS clubs fielding their own teams: New York City FC, LAFC (LAFC Slammers), San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy.
Hickey hopes that all the MLS clubs will become involved in the girls game and field their own Girls’ DA teams.
NWLS Teams Create Pathway for Girls’ DA Players
The DA is a pathway for homegrown players on the Boys’ side and now, with 9 NWSL clubs providing Girls’ DA, there is a real future that is filled with opportunities for young women who have the ambition to become professionals.
The Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, FC Kansas City, North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride, Portland Thorns FC, Sky Blue FC, Seattle Reign Fc and the Washington Spirit will all field Girls’ DA teams kicking off Saturday.
One thing is for certain — big changes in the landscape of youth soccer are forthcoming and one goal everyone is behind are higher standards for the club. Raising the level of the game of soccer in the USA benefits everyone who dreams big.
For more information, here is the U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy schedule of games
Watch the Girls’ DA Kick Off Live:
Following a decade of focus on the Boys’ DA, the Girls’ DA launches this weekend with a total of 108 games kicking off, highlighted by the Girls’ Academy’s first feature match in Somerset, N.J. between Sky Blue – PDA (Somerset, N.J.) and FC Virginia (Chantilly, Va.) in the U-16/17 age group (2002/2001 birth years).
The game will be streamed live at 11 a.m. ET on the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Facebook Page.