U17 WNT star reflects on first YNT camp

U17 WNT star reflects on first YNT camp
by J.R. Eskilson
November 4, 2021
Players featured in this article:
Reese Black |  2024
MF | Tophat SC

The U.S. Soccer Youth National Team camps returned last month for the first time since March 8, 2020. The extended break due to the pandemic gave U.S. Soccer opportunities to see more players in local regional training environments, which helped crafted the roster for the U17 group last month.

"After scouting players across the country in their club competitions virtually and in-person, and evaluating them at Regional ID Centers, as well as during the last cycles before COVID, these camps are a critical opportunity to bring the player pools together and familiarize them with our staff and each other,” U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team General Manager Kate Markgraf said about the camp in a press release. “It’s an important early step to prepare for qualifying, which is coming up quickly.”

YNT coach Matt Potter called in 36 players for the week-long camp from Oct. 10-17. With the 2022 Concacaf Women’s U17 Championship scheduled for January and the FIFA World Cup later in the year, the youth national team coaching staff is trying to make the most of every opportunity with the players. 

Following the October camp, the U.S. U17 Women’s National Team is scheduled for another camp in Chula Vista from November 17-24. Invites for that camp went out this week. 

The Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista is closed to outside guests for health and safety reasons during this time, so TopDrawerSoccer was unable to cover the current YNT camps in person. However, we spoke to Tophat midfielder Reese Black about her experience at the U17 WNT camp, training against the best, and what camp was like with the health and safety protocols in place. 

“It was exciting to meet everyone, both new and old friends, since the first youth national team camp since the shutdown,” Reese Black told TopDrawerSoccer in an email interview this week. “We were assigned rooms with three other athletes from other states. I was able to get very close to all of them. Due to Covid restrictions, we were not allowed in other rooms, had to walk to and from different locations with our roommates, and every meal required us to sit together. Getting closer to my roommates was a great experience not only because I had the opportunity to meet new people, but also get closer with those same people throughout the week.”

With players from 17 states and 25 different clubs, the safety measures taken were following U.S. Soccer’s Return to Play guidelines. The coaches still had work to do though with limited time before the qualifying event. 

“The focus of the camp was to grow as a person and a player by getting the best coaching and competition possible,” Black said. “It was also to get comfortable to the point where you learn new ideas and bring it back to the club with you to lead your team. Each day, the coaches focused on a different perspective of the game and taught us new types of attacking and defensive techniques. There was a game plan for each practice that you would be able to bring into a game-like scenario. We watched videos from the Women’s National Team games, and brought that into perspective of our own training and games. Visualizing what the coaches were talking about by showing us specific plays in real games helped to understand what they wanted us to do.”

Bringing a cohesive style from the full team to the youth teams is a focus for U.S. Soccer, and has been from some time. Potter and his staff also spent time working on exercises to help players showcase their best abilities. 

“I felt that the camp did a great job organizing each player into groups based on work loads and travel days. They gave everyone a fair opportunity to showcase all our attributes. Personally, I felt very good about the way I played,” Black said. “The first two days of training sessions were hard intensity sessions. Wednesday was a game day and I scored as an attacking mid in our 2-0 win. Thursday and Friday were a recovery/training session and Saturday was our last game. I scored in our 5-0 win in Saturday’s game. Every player there pushed me to my best abilities, so camp overall for me was mostly about the experience and bringing out the best of my abilities to push myself and others around me.”

Coaches wanted to see players at their best in certain roles as they start to make decisions on the player pool moving forward with eyes toward 2022 and beyond. The end of every youth national team camp features the coaches sitting down with the players to help on their journey and guide them to reach their goals. The coaches provided some wisdom for Black about her play during the camp. 

“The feedback I received from the coaches was regarding my transitions between the attacking and defensive plays,” Black said. “Meaning, when our team loses the ball, I need to be able to get back faster on defense and get into the correct defensive spacing, and vice versa. They showed us our own game film which helped me understand what I did well and what I need to improve on. I was told I was in the correct pockets and spaces to get the ball and go forward, but sometimes I had dropped off too much towards the defensive line/holding mid. But with the coaches’ help and game film I understood what I needed to work on, and I will be sure to use that advice going forward to help me before the next camp.”

Black like the rest of the player pool for the U.S. U17 Women’s National Team is hoping for the honor of putting on the gear with the emblem again. 

“This is the first US National Team camp I have been invited to aside from the Regional ID Camps and the Youth National Training Centers over the past 3 years,” Black said. “Even though this is my first experience at this type of event, wearing the US emblem was an honor and I felt a strong need to represent the country to set an example for others that want this opportunity one day.”

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