Part 2 in a 3-part series. Read Part 1.
TOLEDO, OHIO – When players from the Great Lakes Region gathered last weekend for one of 10 ECNL Player Development Program combines, things looked simple, but even that was part of a plan.
The new Player ID program of the nationwide girls’ competitive league is sanctioned by U.S. Club Soccer and has received an official ODP designation from U.S. Soccer. The purpose of the proceedings is to gather top players to compete with and against one another under the watching eyes of organization and national staff to determine who might be suitable for further evaluation.
At the Toledo event, players were divided into four teams based on age, and played games on consecutive days. On the morning of the 2nd day, a training session was conducted along with Nike Sparq Training.
ECNL President Christian Lavers, who was not on hand in Toledo but has been involved with the new program from the beginning, explained a bit more about the program’s goal in an interview with TopDrawerSoccer.com, noting that players were being given a glimpse of what a national event might be like, program-wise.
“We worked with Jill Ellis (U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director) to put together a curriculum for the training session to look like what a national team session would be like as far as its flow,” Lavers said. “It’s not rocket science. We want to have a professional environment and one that helps give kids an understanding of what it will be like if they advance to a higher level. For the activities both on and off the field, we wanted to make our sessions replicate that, and for when we do play 11 a side, we want to put a 4-2-3-1 in place, which is the system our youth national teams are playing. We want to give the kids some ideas as to the system and increase the odds that the kids will be successful if they get there and feel more comfortable on and off the field.”
Lavers added that the relatively short duration of the event is also by design, allowing players to come in and participate with minimal driving, no more than one night away from home and then the chance to return to their respective club environments, with costs to families minimized as well.
At the Toledo event, played in a very nice indoor training facility with a full-length field, a decision was made to go to 9 players a side as the full width of the field was unable to be utilized. While that may have affected the tactical teaching part of the program, it definitely was the right call in terms of the flow of the scrimmages.
Lavers said he is pleased with the feedback he is getting from events around the country.
“I want players to go away and say that was really fun I want to do that again,” he said. “I want them to think ‘I’m going to work harder to make sure I get back there the next time.’”