TUKWILA, Wash. (May 27, 2014) – The Washington Youth Soccer Elite Player Development (EPD) program held its first camp for the 2002 and 2003 boys and girls birth years this past weekend at Northwest Soccer Park in Bellingham. The camp brought together the top 02 and 03 players from around the state for training and games with Washington Youth Soccer EPD staff and guest coaches.
Players went through morning and afternoon training sessions, with evening scrimmages against older sides from Whatcom Rangers FC. The EPD program, part of the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (ODP), is the original ODP development and identification program, and is designed to mimic the U.S. National Team program where the top players are brought together from their club teams to train and compete alongside each other. Just five months into the year, 13 current and former Washington Youth Soccer EPD players have been called into Youth National Team camps in 2014. In 2013, nine EPD players were called into U.S. camps, including three players that were a part of the U-17 Girls World Cup Qualifying squad. Sounders FC also signed two additional homegrown players earlier this year, both products of the EPD program.
Along with EPD staff coaches, guest coaches were brought in to help lead the camp, headlined by U.S. Soccer Director of Development and U-14 Girls National Team Head Coach April Kater. Michael Ndoumbe, US Youth Soccer Region IV ODP Head Coach and former World Cup participant, and Lauren Hanson, former Women’s National Team player and current San Jose State University Women’s Head Coach, were also on-hand to help guide the players.
Both Kater and Ndoumbe addressed the players and parents after Saturday’s session. A common concern from parents was the convoluted landscape of youth soccer, with numerous options of leagues, programs and camps that are available. Kater and Ndoumbe both reinforced the benefit of participating in EPD, which tests players and pushes them to develop their game by putting players into high-level training with unfamiliar teammates and coaches. However, both also stressed that no one path is perfect for every player, and that each family should seek to find the best environment of teammates, coaches and club that fits their needs, and also emphasized an ideal training situation that fits into the families’ schedule of time and travel requirements.
The 02 and 03 EPD players do not participate in the US Youth Soccer Region IV ODP Championships, as these age groups are purely developmental. The next camp for the two age groups will be held next month at Starfire Sports. Joining the Washington Youth Soccer EPD staff in June is Jay Hoffman, U.S. Soccer Educational Staff and Director of Coaching for the Virginia Rush Soccer Club, Seattle Reign Head Coach Laura Harvey, and 2-time Olympic champion and Women's World Cup bronze medalist Angela Hucles. The three-day camp will culminate EPD season for the 02 and 03 age groups.
The EPD program is an umbrella program combining all of Washington Youth Soccer’s current development curriculums as well as additional opportunities from our soccer community.
Comprised of nearly 430 of the top players in the state, a highly qualified coaching staff and administrative team, the Elite Player Development program is designed as the training ground for Washington’s most elite youth soccer players. The EPD coaching staff strategically hand-selects the players and the best development opportunities possible to create a complete package that best suits players’ needs.