Two years ago I joined the staff of Flordia Youth Soccer Association (FYSA) a state organization associated with US Youth Soccer. The FYSA runs coaching education, the Olympic development program, and various state leagues. It's actually pretty well run in Florida. I work as a staff coach with ODP. Every year we scout the state for the best players and invite them to be part of our state team and then compete at a Regional camp held at the University of Alabama. At this camp, they get to train in front of regional coaches and be selected for a regional team to play in front of national coaches. In a way, I am looking for national team players in Florida. Last year I skipped the regional camp because it was the same time as my parent's homecoming in Utah, but this year I went.
After a nearly sleepless night and a 3:30 am alarm I was off to the airport. Why do we always sleep to poorly the night before an early morning flight?
|Coolest room/hall at the Atlanta airport|
The first flight, the plane was packed but the start of the art with touch screen personal monitors. To Atlanta. Second ⅔ full, but not as nice. But it gave me time to read This is your brain on sports.
Birmingham airport is nice and I got Breakfast... again Chick-fil-A. Sat around for a few hours waiting for our bags to take us to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
After arriving we headed to the 7th floor of the President's dorm where we got keys to our dorms and lunch bands for the cafeteria. Dorms are half apartment half hotel, I actually never stayed in dorms in college, so this was my first time. We were provided furniture but not TV's or bed sheets, but the accommodations were pretty good. The coaches of each team room together, so we share an apartment but not a bedroom, thank goodness! I had forgotten what living with other guys is like … we are gross, but the other guys were polite and cleaned up as well as expected.
Zoz, single, no kids and loves his soda and drinks it like it is life giving water. Gram, quite, married, 2 kids and is the definition of chill. Both coaches are very smart.
Dinner (and all meals) was in the cafeteria at UA.
The first day you arrive and after check in, we have a training session run by the state coaches. The first training session was run by state coaches but we were given the topic, build out of the back. Future sessions are run by regional coaches. I was very curious to see how different they are from what I usually do in a session, not much. The field is so far from the dorms we ride buses to the fields. Got to sayk, camp feels like a glorified summer camp and I am a camp counselor. But it's also pretty legit as kids here really do get looked at for national team stuff.
Next, it was opening ceremonies.
10:30 Coaches meeting, then bed. The dorm walls are paper thin, so I figured out how to listen to a fan noise on my phone to help drown out the sounds. The dorms made me appreciate the home I have and worked hard for. I am never going back to apartment life.
Breakfast was typical cafeteria fair but the staff is quite friendly.
Now the state games. The state games are the regional coaches first opportunity to scout out players and decide who is going to play in the pool games. Winning doesn't mean much, but everyone still likes to win and we did 3-2.
This is the Oklahoma state team. My secret hope was that they did really well as Oklahoma is just not known for soccer like its southern neighbor Texas.
Lunch and more food, then off to a player meeting/lecture. This is the player's opportunity to listen and learn. It's just too hot to be out side training anyway.
Player meeting about possession. Specifically, 10 principal of possession, it was a good presentation, I took notes... on my phone, which I hated.
Next was a coaches meeting where we discussed the future of USYS and ODP.
More food, dinner…
Training day 2 was by the regional coaches. I'm always surprised that the supposed experts never seem to coach anything different than what I know. They are just way more confident in their delivery in front of others than I usually am. Building out of the back was the theme.
Then pool games. These games are supposed to be the main event. If a region coach sees you play well in a state game and likes you, you get invited to play in a pool game that night and receive extra observation and a possible invite to the region team. These games made me most excited for Friday night lights.
4th meal. I had my first 4th meal at ODP. Basically, the idea is after pool games go back to the cafeteria and eat more. Keeps the guys occupied and “fueled.” Oh, my there has been so much food!
Breakfast, more food and it's beginning to take it's toll, so I ate way less.
Game 2 big win 6-1 I can definitely see some improvement in the team and I am really impressed by a few of them. Way better than I was at the same age.
Time to eat again, lunch. And a free afternoon. Before dinner, training and pool games. Finally some downtime but it does make you wonder why have downtime at all just make camp shorter or give something to do, lectures maybe. I spent time on Netflix and resting, sleep has been hard to come by. Today we had 3 make the pool team it's a big deal to make the team and really get looked at. Guess it helps to win, big.
Nature is not easy to work with. I always breathe a sigh of relief when the season ends because I can stop thinking about it. Rain ended our games last night. All practices and games canceled. Our three pool players didn't get their game. So we ended up watching the men's national team play in the gold cup. 3-0 win to win the group. Then it was a late night snack and bed.
Breakfast and games against a south Texas 5 team. It's a slotter. 10-0 we should not be playing such a team. Fields are super wet from last night's rain.
Lunch and nap time. Which brings me to the internet here on campus. It sucked. I couldn't keep connected and ended up using my data. After naps, it was individual meetings with regional coaches. I noticed this coach used his interviews to teach more than anything. Again I am struck by how type-A so many coaches are. A laid back coach is rare. My surprise mostly stems from how unimportant a game can be, I think to type-A personalities would be attracted to more important things.
Pool list is out, this time we had 4 make the team, fortunately, the players who missed their chance last time made the list again. No rain so games are a go. Again I volunteered to go with the pool players who have a separate schedule than those who don't make the pool game.
Dinner again, but this time with the pool players, and wouldn't you know it the best meal of the cafe all week is the same night that Florida ODP special orders ribs from a local joint. Why not on spaghetti night?
Training for those who didn't make the pool game.Pool games in the women's soccer stadium! What a cool facility! Ribs from Dreamland. The weather was amazing, perfect night. What an awesome way to finish the week.
Final games. Started with an earlier rise, 5:45. Breakfast at 6 games at 7. It was a big win for us as we beat a higher ranked Georgia team.
Closing ceremony and the regional pool player were announced, we had one From our team make the pool Mossimo I doubt he will make the actual regional team.
It's time for clean up.
In reflection, this was not exactly the experience I thought it would be. I felt more like a camp counselor than a coach and I didn't learn as much as I thought I would on the topics I thought I would. But, I did learn. First Florida ODP is pretty successful and a good program to be apart of. Which goes to what I have always said, if it ain't broke don't fix it.
My assumption is USYS is going to have to make some big changes over the next few years to keep up with the changes taking place in the world of youth soccer. Clubs all over the nation are doing more and trying to be a one stop shop. Specializing is a bigger and bigger thing, but I also believe it will cycle and people will learn that a variety is better. So give it a few years and ODP will be cutting edge, again.