KEEPING UP WITH THE GABARRA FAMILY: CARIN, JIM AND TALIA

Before all of the accolades and accomplishments, Carin Jennings was just a female youth soccer player soccer player. Before she helped the U.S. Women's National Team win the first-ever FIFA Women's World Cup in 1991, before she took home Golden Ball honors as the tournament's best player, before her induction to the National Soccer Hall of Fame, she was just a girl who would mix it up with the boys, an abnormality when women's sports didn't have the same prevalence that they do today.

"As a kid, there weren't many girls playing," said Jennings. "It's changed dramatically. When I was little, it wasn't accepted to be a female athlete, where now, it's not only accepted, it's applauded."

Now in attendance at the Development Academy Spring Showcase, it's clear how far the women's youth game has come. In conjunction with the start of the Girls' Development Academy, NWSL organizations launched 11 Academy programs to create a pathway for players from youth to professional ranks. The event serves as a highlight of the inaugural season of the Girls' Academy and it represents the first-ever Academy event exclusively for girls.

One of the Girls' Academy's founding member clubs is Washington Spirit Academy. Its technical director: Jim Gabarra, former MNT player, current head coach of the Washington Spirit NWSL squad and Carin's husband.

"It's given us the ability to show a clear connection between the pro team and our Development Academy players," Gabarra said. "It's important for us to have things that we see that need to be developed in players started at the lowest levels within our Academy. We have many opportunities not only for our players to train with our pro team, but also with our reserve team."

Jim Gabarra travelled to Browns Summit to observe the six Washington Spirit Academy teams in action against the rest of the nation's best at the Showcase. Carin is here as the head coach of the U.S. Naval Academy to scout an enormous pool of talented players all in one place. But while they have jobs to do in North Carolina, the main task on their calendar is to support their daughter, Talia Gabarra, compete in the Girls' Academy's inaugural season.

"It's been a really positive experience for me," Talia said. "I really enjoy the environment and the focus on development and getting better. I've been really fortunate to have good coaches and teammates surrounding me who I constantly learn from."

"It's been great for me to have a daughter play at a high level and see her express herself and feel comfortable doing what she does," Carin said. "The soccer's been really good. It's enjoyable to watch because you can not only see the physical attributes of the players, you can also see the soccer IQ of the players."

The Gabarra parents stand as a bona fide soccer power couple. Jennings formed part of the legendary "Triple-Edged Sword" that propelled the WNT to victory at the 1991 Women's World Cup. She also helped the WNT to its first-ever Olympic gold medal at Atlanta 1996. From 1993 to today, she has built the Navy soccer program from a non-NCAA club to an East Coast power.

Jim Gabarra made 14 senior MNT appearances during a lengthy professional career. He also stands as one of the USA's most-decorated Futsal National Team players. Since 2000, Gabarra has been involved with the highest levels of women's soccer in the country. He joined the Spirit in 2015 and his involvement in the club's Academy represents its commitment to the growth of its roots.

"It's great to have family be part of your professional life," Jim said. "That's something a lot of clubs preach, is family. To have my daughter join our Development Academy and give me the feedback that it's the place for her and that's she's very happy there really makes all the hard work worthwhile."

Despite the Gabarra family's litany of a legacy, Talia has forged her own path as a player. She's found a home with the Spirit, and the Academy serves as an optimal cradle for her development. She will play at the University of Central Florida in spring 2019.

"My parents really set a high standard to push myself," Talia said. "I really respect everything my parents have done for the sport. It's pretty lucky for me to have grown up around it. At the same time, they let me do my own thing and have really guided me to be the best person and player I can be."

As Talia experiences the Showcase as an athlete, her parents' professional presences represent some of the opportunities towards which the Academy can launch athletes. Troves of NCAA scouts have joined Carin Gabarra on the sidelines of the Showcase games. Collegiate soccer represents the next step in many players' development pathways and the Showcase provides players a chance to prove they can play at the next level.

Jim Gabarra oversees his club from the youth level all the way up to the professional team as the head coach and technical director for Washington Spirit. The integration plants seeds for the Spirit's, and the NWSL's growth into the future. Both the Girls' Academy and the NWSL are young organizations. As the Academy works to develop world-class individual players, its products can one day populate the professional ranks.

No matter where Talia's individual player development pathway leads, her parents provide invaluable examples.

"We're mom and dad," Jim said. "We happen to be in the business, so it gives her a chance to not only see what she can achieve, but also for us to show her, as role models, what the game can give back."