WNT head coach Jill Ellis headlines Girls' Development Academy Launch Meeting

Dec 23, 2016

In an ever-evolving and increasingly competitive landscape, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy made clear that the future is here and now for elite girls' soccer in the United States.

Youth club leaders and directors from across the nation gathered inside the Chicago Renaissance Hotel Ballroom last week to discuss the state of girls' youth soccer at the U.S. Soccer Girls' Development Academy meeting. U.S. Women's National Team head coach Jill Ellis, along with U.S. Soccer Development Academy Director Jared Micklos, detailed the components of the program and addressed key topics for the U.S. Soccer Girls' Development Academy's inaugural season, kicking off in the Fall of 2017.

The consistent messaging throughout the presentation, small groups and concluding Q&A session was focused on player development: a united mission to create environments that develop all players within the club, and ultimately develop world class players that have the potential to contribute to the Women's National team.

"At the outset you are talking not about a league but you are talking about a platform for development," Ellis said. "I think in the fundamental basis of what this is going to serve, it's for development. The Development Academy is going to bring clubs and coaches to become more aligned in terms of what the big picture is: to find players and help them become the best soccer players they can be."

Another aspect that Ellis touched on was how the Girls' Development Academy will be a revolutionary step towards de-emphasizing winning and losing. "This is not a league where it is about points and trophies," Ellis said. "This is a development platform, where it's about competing, growing and helping players get better. That base philosophy is going to send messages to coaches and the coaches will embrace it."

Throughout the meeting, club leaders were educated on the opportunities the Development Academy alignment presents with U.S. Soccer. Similar to the current structure of the Boys' Development Academy, the primary principles of the Girls' Development Academy include more training, less total games, more meaningful games, international rules and standards, higher standards and license requirements for coaches, elite referees and increased opportunities for players to be identified and selected to Youth National Teams. These principles, along with the education, club support and resources U.S. Soccer provides to Girls' Development Academy clubs, generated a buzz and positive outlook from academy club directors in attendance.

"Any decision you make is about trust and responsibility," Sockers FC Chicago Academy Director Dave Richardson said. "If you look at U.S. Soccer and you look at the Development Academy, you say, 'Can I trust that they can put together the best programming for players? Can I trust that they are going to put together an environment that is going to be good for developing players, which is ultimately going to be good for you as a club?' Well, having been with them for ten years on the boys' side, I can say that the answer is yes."

"As a club, you have to start to think a little bit differently," Richardson continued. "Maybe you are not thinking so much about the team and the outcome of the team, but rather the way in which you are developing your players. As clubs, we are the platform and we have a responsibility to elevate our players."

In the opening slide of the presentation, Micklos called up a picture of Albert Einstein with a quote reading,

"If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got."

This thought provoking statement for the 125 club directors and leaders in the hotel ballroom served as the beginning of dialogue and as a guide for small group discussion throughout the day. To remain amongst the international leaders in the global landscape, the U.S. Soccer Federation Development Academy Program will provide players the opportunity to develop on their own pathway.

"We are pleased to have national club leaders together to discuss the future of the girls' game and believe we have made real progress today," Micklos said. "For many clubs, this can be an unfamiliar process. The lessons learned in building the Academy will provide a guide for the clubs and ourselves as we expand programming for elite youth female players."

"Over the last 10 years, the Development Academy has built meaningful relationships and earned respect from the right stakeholders to launch what we firmly believe is the right pathway and footprint of youth soccer development."

By the numbers:
71 Number of clubs joining the Girls' Development Academy in Fall 2017
6 Number of Girls' Development Academy regions: Northeast, Southwest, Mid-America, Frontier, Northwest, Southeast
5,000 Number of projected Development Academy girls' players for inaugural season
10,700 Current players in the Development Academy
179 Number of unique boys' and girls' Academies, developing the next generation of talent
135 Number of USSF 'A' licensed coaches currently committed to Girls' Development Academy clubs
1,544 Number of players to receive full scholarships from Academy Clubs