Just completed is a conference call with April Heinrichs, the Technical DIrector for the girls academy, Miriam Hickey the Girls Academy Director and Jared Micklos the Academy Director. This, the opening weekend , will feature 100 games with 69 clubs and some 250 teams containing 6,000 athletes, with the age groups u14-u19 represented. 9 NWSL teams and a total of 11 affiliated head the pack.
Miriam explained how she is excited to finally be getting going and her jealousy at not having such an opportunity at that age with quality training 4x a week , less games and higher standards.
The following are a synopsis of the questions put forth and the replies.
On whether U.S. Soccer will send out instructions such as style of play formations etc? Miriam stated, no that it would be left to the clubs to control that. Skills sought however would include decision making at higer speed and the seeking out of key qualities.
As to there being streaming games? This was a yes, with there being better games, all recorded by the home team to later be shared and watched by all, the first of which will be streamed.
I asked, why there has been a 10 year lag between boys and girls despite the women's program being far more successful? Was informed by Jared that there was never any doubt of doing a girls program, it was more due to the timing and research than anything.
Upon being asked relative to "homegrown" players from NWSL programs etc? Miriam explained that would be left to the league.
It was put to those on the call about MLS involvement. Miriam told us she hopes for all to be involved.
Quiered as to whether the boys were used to research for the girls program to follow? Jared related they had learned lessons and best practices to now implement with the girls.
One caller wanted to know what was it about the time now that made it best to begin? Jared stated tht it was looked into and it was now good to build the next one.
Upon asking about the minimum requirements on facilities and coaching I was told by Miriam, the best they can get, I found that rather vauge as I was specificas to # of fields surface etc. Further stating that there would need to be room to train, 1/2 a field 4 x a week, not a good reply as half is too small of course? Wanting to not have games cancelled due to weather, that is difficult in NY Boston and this week Houston. The level or certification of coaches also met with my dismay as she told all there are none yet, in the future they will do an analysis. I may just apply for a girls academy, using my c lisc., I have a half field in my yard, and am pretty sure I can find a few hours field time each gameday nearby?
It was put out as to what are the key elements of a player they seek? April handled that one, at 14-16 years physical attributes are very influential, they look to see at 12/13 what a good player looks like: 2 footed, using all surfaces of the foot, agile, moving without the ball good vision, moving pre/post possession. Using Abby Wambach as an example, very good with the head, shooting with her instep and receiving the ball, lacking with dribbling.
Another scribe inquired on individiual performance plan and parents. April gave a great explanation that the player will take such a plan and with parent and club coach flesh it out as the playere would then own it. Miriam chimmed in that it would be the same for all in the academy seeking higher levels of play not just national team.
A terrific question poised was the views on girls getting better than current how to see and when. Mirim handled that one informing now one may play 90 games in a year with different players, coaches. One's fitness is low after playing a 3rd game of a weekend, the current goal is win not develop players this is not the case in the academy system. April added it will take time."put player first", meaningful but moderation in games. For ease of travel train at 1 place 4 x a week. US Soccer will ask for development plans, annual plans, with federations help US Soccer will visit the DOC and coaches etc. to better develop these plans and best practices.
It was asked about the age groups. April answered it well in stating there is much of a drop off later thusly the 18 & 19 year olds are together and others will play up as well. Jared contributed that there is a consistent way to develop despite boys and girls developing different.
The final questions were similar in vein. The first sought details on when they will add clubs as it will lessen travel. Jared takcled this one well with, there is growth planned, applications processes will remain unchanged, they will open in October, get evaluated, talk with DOC with president as well by early 2018.
Finally the # of clubs was asked about. Jared again took this one telling there is no # ,the best teams are sought, big criteria being the ability to develop players.
Overall I thought it to be a good call. All being said is based on the boys experiences and how it is expected to translate to the girls. Many things I am sure will occur which will cause this to change. I of course had other questions, as to the pay to play with the affiliated teams and others, average cost, travel distances expected. I am sure these and many other issues will come out in the wash but my biggest thing was why not do the girls first , it's smaller and more successful, if it drops by 10% should it not work they are still well positioned if boys drop by 10% it's a calamity, the decisiion is made and now let's see how the girls do.