As one such path, Massachusetts Youth Soccer has upgraded its Olympic Development Program. We have returned to the basic mission of identifying and developing elite players in the most challenging and competitive environment possible and to the notion that playing on a Massachusetts State Team is a hard-earned honor. ODP is devoted entirely to the development of individual players and geared solely to the identification of the elite player. Unlike environments in which team achievement is paramount, ODP is free to develop the individual player with only his or her best interests in mind.
In order to serve our elite youth soccer players in Massachusetts, ODP continues to grow and adapt as a program. We continue to tailor each aspect of ODP in a manner that will best prepare our elite players to play and compete at the highest levels of competition. In continuing to update and upgrade Massachusetts ODP, the following improvements have been made in recent seasons:
Exempt from Tryouts
Players who were invited into a Region 1 pool at the conclusion of the Region 1 Camp the previous year or who have been invited to a Youth National Team Pool will not be required to attend ODP Tryouts.
U12-U14 will tryout as split age groups. Players born January through June will tryout together as the “Olders” and players born July through December will tryout together as the “Youngers”. We do this as studies have shown that most national team programs selected 80% of their players who were born within the first half of any given year. It is aimed to take an equal amount of “Olders” and “Youngers” for the U12, U13, and U14 age groups.
Regional/National Team Training
Periodically, players who have been identified for Regional or National Team pools will train as a single group with Ian Mulliner, Massachusetts Youth Soccer’s Technical Director. Multiple age groups will train together so as to create as competitive an environment as possible.
FIFA 11+ is a complete warm-up program designed by experts to reduce injuries among youth soccer players aged 14 years and older. The program will be performed as a standard warm-up at the start of each training session.
Massachusetts ODP will continue its much heralded Sports Psychology program, with assistance from Springfield College Athletic Counselors, in conjunction with our winter training. There is not another such comprehensive program offered by any club or youth soccer organization in the state. Sports psychology is a critical element to training the elite player and is employed at Region 1 Identification Camps.
US Soccer Guide to Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD)
US Soccer has developed a program for the effective development of the youth soccer player. ODP has adopted the US Soccer Guide and will approach the training of each individual player in the context of the three (3) phases of development set forth in the US Soccer Guide.
1. Basic Stage (U12) For players in our youngest age group, ODP will involve intense, local and centralized training in the late fall, winter and spring. Players will compete in a U12 New England Jamboree hosted at the Massachusetts Youth Soccer complex in Lancaster. The U12 ODP experience will culminate in an end of season Region 1 Camp experience.
2. Intermediate Stage (U13 and U14) Massachusetts ODP will return to the past practice of being more exclusive in its evaluation and selection process. This will result in a smaller pool in these age groups, with players having to be selected to participate in the Region 1 Camp. Top players including members of the Region 1 and National Team pools will receive specific integrated training periodically. This program will culminate at the Region 1 Identification Camps in July.
3. Advanced Stage (U15 and U16/17) These pools of players will be selected based upon players’ potential to succeed at the Regional level of competition. Teams will be formulated to compete at the Region 1 Tournament in June and the season will culminate in the Region 1 Identification Camps in July. Top players in this stage, including members of the Region 1 and National Team pools, will receive specific integrated training periodically.
4. Goalkeeper Academy
For the 2016 to 2017 season, we will be implementing a goalkeeper academy for the Olympic Development Program. During tryouts, players who want to try out for the goalkeeper position will be evaluated as they always have been with goalkeeper specific training followed by a scrimmage which includes both field players and goalkeepers. The goalkeepers will be assessed on their ability to stop shots, distribute the ball, and organize the defense in front of them. The top performing goalkeepers will then be invited to join the goalkeeper academy. They will have five dates during the winter months of both training and classroom sessions. Once the spring season begins they will train at the same time as the field players. Every other week, the top two goalkeepers from the previous week’s goalkeeper training session will be selected to join the team training session. The remainder of the goalkeepers will work with the goalkeeping staff. Our hopes are to create a more competitive training environment for the goalkeepers as well as make a better connection between the top goalkeepers and the field players within each given team.