10 years ago, U.S. Soccer created the Boys Development Academy to foster the talents of young soccer players in America and help mold them into professional soccer players. Now, starting this weekend, the Girls Development Academy will begin all over the country.
With the success of the Boys academy, the Girls academy will focus on the development of players from four different age groups, in a controlled environment handled by the U.S. Soccer federation. It will primarily focus on providing some of the best female athletes in the area with a high-level club environment to get the most out of their development potential.
What the DA will do differently compared to previous academy programs is play fewer, more meaningful games, but train more often, in order to maximize the player development and time with coaches.
The four age groups: U-14, U-15, U-17 and U-19, will all play a 10 month schedule and compete in six different regions. The Pride DA teams will play in the Southeast region, which consists of Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. The teams will travel all over those three states, playing games with 10 different teams across the region.
“The federation has significant oversight in terms of coaches, curriculum, style of play, philosophies,” Hough said. “They designed a 10 month calendar, so they can control the environment they’re around and ultimately improve it into a more professional everyday environment.”
For the Pride DA, it comes with a more player-centric focus, with an emphasis on developing players for the first team, the collegiate world and the youth national team. The unique opportunity for the Orlando DA is that they have a professional team literally in their backyard, one of two cities in the South-East conference with a professional women’s team in the same city, the other being North Carolina. The benefit of this is that not only can the players learn from the current professionals playing for the team, but a number of the Pride staff will be working with the DA as well. Pride/youth national team goalkeeper coach Lloyd Yaxley, sports performance expert John Grace amongst other medical staff will pull double duty to help with the academy in their development, something that Hough calls “invaluable.”
"We're always looking to the future and that starts within the developmental academy. Our long term goal is to produce a starting player for the first team. By installing our philosophies and moulding the GK's to look how we'd like our professional goalkeepers to appear. This will place them in good stead future development" said Yaxley.
This youth to pro model has already lead to a success story with Hensley Hancuff already been called up for U.S. U-18 National Team. Hensley is currently twinning her academics and training every morning with the Pride team and current women's national team goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
"It's great that our elite players are being afforded the opportunities by coach Tom Sermanni and his staff. It's the start of an exciting era for US soccer" Hough summarized.