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The road for women’s professional soccer in the United States has been– simply put– bumpy. There was the first rendition in WUSA, then the second go-around with WPS, and now the NWSL. The one team to have weathered every storm is the Boston Breakers. Boston has hosted a professional women’s soccer team in every league. During the year between the collapse of WPS and the start of the NWSL, the Breakers even kept it going by forming a team to play in the semi-pro WPSL Elite.

Even with all this change, one thing remains constant for the Breakers—every player is excited for another chance to showcase their talent and love of the sport in front of the best fans. Since the announcement of the new league in November, more exciting news has been announced. Just last week, all teams in the league announced their allocations of the National Team players from USA, Canada, and Mexico. Lisa Cole returns as head coach for the Breakers, and the organization started the Breakers Academy, a youth development program.

I was able to catch up with some of your favorite Breakers; Katie Schoepfer and Heather O’Reilly to get their thoughts on the recent and exciting news.

Katie Schoepfer:

On Lisa Cole continuing as Head Coach:

“I’m really looking forward to Lisa being the head coach again. I think she is a great coach. Last year she really believed in me, and brought our team along. […] She can break down video like crazy and she very good at those kinds of “x’s and o’s” things in the locker room which I think helps us out tremendously. […] I think overall she is very much a player’s coach. She looks for a lot of input from her leaders and her team, which gives us some ownership. We’re able keep open lines of communication with Lisa and she is very receptive to it which is great for our team.”

On the new Breakers Academy:

“I really hope that girls around Massachusetts take advantage of the fact that they will be able to play and be coached by professional players and professional coaches. […] It is an honor for us to wear the Breakers jersey, so it is pretty cool for a 10-year-old girl to be able to put on that jersey too.”

“I love coaching, and I love being able to work with different teams and different age groups. Besides playing, it is one of my passions. I hope to get involved with the Academy as much as possible.”

On Heather O’Reilly:

“My rookie season I played with her in New Jersey with Sky Blue. There is really nobody like her. No one can match her work ethic. She loves to play and she loves the game. That’s really contagious on a team. You can tell the difference when she is at practice, and when she is in games. For me personally, it just gives me so much more energy because I try to match everything that she is doing. I’m looking forward to playing with her again. ”

Heather O’Reilly:

On the growth of soccer in the U.S.:

“I think as a U.S. player and a fan of soccer in our country, it’s exciting to see soccer take hold in our country. It’s amazing to be a part of this growth and another step for U.S. Soccer to advance the game in our country. I think in the last two years, with the 2011 World cup and the (2012) Olympics, we are proud of the stronghold we’ve had in terms of the attention (soccer has received).”

On teammate Sydney Leroux:

“Syd, although coming off the bench (for the U.S.), she pumped in 12 goals. That was all off the bench! I’m really proud of Syd as a player. She’s handled herself very well on and off the field. And, she’s entertaining.”

On teammate Heather Mitts:

“Heather Mitts is somebody who is just the perfect teammate. She’s always going to be fit. She’s always going to be ready to go. She provides so much to the team environment.”

Her opinion on players for Mexico and Canada in the NWSL:

“It’s an interesting dynamic. I can’t even guess how many games I’ve played against (Rhian) Wilkinson (one of Boston’s players from Canada) on the National Team. I’m excited to have her on my side this time.”

If you happened to be in terminal B at Logan International Airport Thursday night, you may have notice an unusual feeling in the air like something big was about to happen. And it did– with the arrival of Kyah Simon and Tameka Butt, the two Breakers Australian internationals.

The two young, rising Matilda stars are personable, lively, and just plain nice. After 24 hours filled with travel and claiming their luggage, they took a moment for pictures and to answer some questions from Pitch Side View.

How was your trip?

Almost in unison, they both say “Long” with a good laugh. Tameka: “It is good to finally arrive in Boston after a long flight.”

What is it like to finally arrive in Boston?

Tameka: “It is a bit cold, but really exciting. Can’t wait to meet the girls [the Breakers] and get out on the pitch.”

What are you looking forward to the most?

Kyah: “Getting out on the training pitch with the girls, finally getting a feel for American style of football. Being coached by two female coaches it’s something that I’ve never experienced, and I don’t think Tameka has either.”

Who are you most looking forward to playing with?

Kyah: “It’s a matter of finally getting to training and seeing which players you work off. Hopefully the whole team gels as a whole, and you play really well together. You won’t know until you finally get on the field and give it a go.”

What are your goals for the team and yourself?

Tameka: “I hope we win the play offs. For myself, to be able to fit into a team. It’s a different football culture over here to Australia.”

Kyah: “To get to the playoffs as well. Obviously, we’re both competitive, and we want to win.  Meeting new friends as well as teammates. Hopefully that good relationship off the pitch can really pay off on the pitch.”

What will you miss most about home?

Both Tameka and Kyah will miss their “family and friends” and Tameka quickly adds “the beach” to the list.

What are you looking forward to doing in Boston and the States?

Tameka: “We were just talking about that and we’ve got to go to the baseball, basketball, hockey. We want to see that all the different sports we don’t have at home.”

Kyah: “Hopefully getting our way to New York at some stage and seeing a few of the other big cities.”

Tameka: “We’re both 21 this year, so we are looking forward to a trip to Las Vegas.”

A special thanks to Kyah and Tameka for sitting down to do this interview after their flight and long day. Click here for pictures of the session (photos copyright Courtney Sacco).

Biographies:

Kyah Simon – Kyah is the superstar of the future for the Australian National Team. She debuted in the national team program with the under 15 team. She scored the winning PK that gave the Matildas the 2010 AFC Women’s Asia cup. In the 2011 World Cup she lead the team in scoring with 2 goals in the tournament.

Tameka Butt – Tameka captained the under 17 Australian women’s national team from 2007 to 2009. She scored the equalizer in the league finals game for her former club the Brisbane Roar of the Australian W-League before they succumb to a goal against by the eventual champions Canberra United.

The future of women’s soccer in the United States of America was volatile when WPS made the decision to suspend the 2012 season due in part to resolving legal disputes. This period was short-lived as two established leagues positioned themselves to fill that gap. The WPSL has filled the demand by pushing up the date to create their Elite league by a year, bring in former WPS clubs the Red Stars, the Breakers, and the Flash, and having the teams sign talented players from the WPS. The USL W-League already had a pro league but are now able to increase the talent pool by signing former WPS players. Both leagues will start play in the week of May 7th. But does this mean the future of women’s soccer is safe?

The chat will look to explore the future all be it without a time machine and answer what does the future of US women’s soccer look like at the professional level, college level, and youth level.

Q1: US Women’s Professional Soccer

  • Is there enough demand to support two leagues, possibly three (return of WPS)? Why or why not?
  • Could or should there be inter-league play?
  • What impact does this split have on the structure of professional soccer and feeding system for the national team?
  • What complications does this create for players?

Q2: College Level Women’s Soccer

  • What impact does having or not having a professional league have on the college game?
  • What new decisions are players now confronted with when deciding their future after school?
  • What impact would be felt by athletic programs at universities?

Q3: Youth Level Women’s Soccer

  • What impact does having or not having a professional league or role models have on the interest of youth toward the game?
  • Does this change the landscape of the youth women’s game? Why?
  • What is the trickle down impact that could be felt by youth organizations?

Join us on Monday at 8pm ET to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

America’s soccer youth has been the focus of the soccer world over the past month. I spent all of Saturday at US Youth Soccer’s Workshop taking in the workshops and exhibits. The US Women’s Under-23 is heading to La Manga, Spain for their Four Nations Tournament and the US Women’s Under-20 had great success in their Four Nations Tournament. The US Women’s Under-20 and Under-17 teams have CONCACAF Championship Tournaments to determine a berth for the age groups World Cup.  The past two games for the USWNT Alex Morgan has been larger than life scoring 4 goals and assisting on another two. This sparked the topic for tonight’s chat.

The chat will look to explore the importance of young players for the USWNT and youth programs (under-23, under-20, and under-17).

Q1: USWNT Young Players

  • What is the talent level of the young players for USWNT?
  • What role should the young players have on the team? Why?
  • What impact will they have on the future of the team?
  • What are some of the difficult decisions are put on a coach with such talent available?

Q2: The Youth Programs

  • What is the importance of having a WNT youth program?
  • What are pressures are put onto the players in the youth programs?
  • Do these programs set-up a feeding system? Why?
  • Do these programs help USWNT being a continuous leader of the game?

Join us on Monday at 8pm ET to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

After only two short weeks from the deflating news that WPS was suspending the 2012 season, we have been offered hope. This week WPSL announced the creation of an elite league which would include WPS teams. As describe in And They Play On, the Boston Breakers and the Western New York Flash have joined in. They will be joined by the Chicago Red Stars and FC Indiana. This keeps professional level women’s soccer play and players in the U.S. for 2012.

The chat will look to explore what this means for WPS, the players, and the game of women’s professional soccer in the U.S.

Q1: Women’s Professional Soccer

  • What does this do for WPS?
  • In what way may WPS benefit from this?
  • What impact does this have on the future of WPS?
  • What complications could come about from this decision?

Q2: The Players

  • What benefits do players get from this decision?
  • What decisions are players now confronted with?
  • What are the future considerations for the players?

Q3: The U.S. Women’s Professional Game

  • How is this a win for the women’s game?
  • Does this change the landscape of the women’s game? Why?
  • What does this mean for the future of U.S. soccer?

Join us on Monday at 8pm ET to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

“Elite”. One word, that is all you need to describe WPS, the players in the league, the coaches, and now the WPSL (Women’s Premier Soccer League). After WPS suspended the 2012 season, its teams, players, and coaches were left with two options; await the 2013 season to start playing or find a way to get on the field this year. Enter the WPSL. They are creating an Elite league which will include WPS teams the Boston Breakers and the Western New York Flash, former WPS team Chicago Red Stars, and FC Indiana.

One of the fears that came out of WPS suspending the 2012 season and the recent memory of the failed WUSA was what will happen to women’s professional soccer in the U.S. now. “The WPSL recognizes the importance of a professional women’s soccer league in America,” WPSL Commissioner Jerry Zanelli said. “And that it is critical to provide a showcase for these top women players, and to inspire young athletes. We have put together a plan that will allow WPS teams individually to join the WPSL in the Elite League. Officially, they will not be professional teams, but would allow our top professional players to play in a highly competitive league.” WPSL has always looked to support and improve women’s soccer in the US and this is just another part of that initiative. “We have said all along that we will do anything to help improve women’s soccer in U.S.” said Zanelli. “This is a step in keeping that process going.” Breakers coach Lisa Cole saw this as a necessity when at a youth camp, “This is why this has to happen,” she said. “These girls have to have these players in their lives. The excitement that they bring from talking to the professional player is so important. The influence that these players have on others’ lives is tremendous.”

This is another endorsement of the women’s game along with the flood of tweets from players and fans. Boston Breakers Associate General Manager Lee Billiard has seen this first hand. “After the suspension of WPS was announced, we received overwhelming support from our fan base and sponsors,” he said. “Internally, it was clear for us to keep the Boston Breakers in the community and to provide an avenue for players to train and play at a competitive level. We are delighted with the outcome and happy to announce the Boston Breakers will be playing again in 2012 and stepping up our community outreach programs.” Leslie Osborne ,frequent tweeter, was moved by the support when she tweeted “It’s very important (to) keep this franchise around, (We) have (the) best fans.”

With the suspension of the season, one big question on everyone’s minds is what is next for WPS players? This concern is well expressed by  Lisa Cole. “The first week was really, really hard; the conversations I had with each and every player on the team were hard,” Cole said. “Some players were extremely disappointed, some were mad, some players were in disbelief. You’re so close to a dream and it just doesn’t happen.” She went on to say “I love how they’ve responded now. Our team especially has been upbeat and positive in social media… They’ll be playing to keep their dream alive.”

But what does it all mean for the future of WPSL elite league and WPS? Jerry Zanelli, WPSL commissioner,  had this to say. “Our main purpose was to find ways to continue to have the highest possible level of soccer for women in the United States,” Zanelli continued, “and to help prepare for the return of professional women’s soccer in 2013. We also wanted to make it financially viable for present WPSL teams to join the Elite League and raise their level of play.” The elite league will look to expand in 2013 to the west coast. Interest has come from San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Bay Area, and Seattle.

What do you think about partnership between WPS and WPSL? Is this a good way to keep interest in women’s professional soccer? Or does this water down the progress WPS had made?

Welcome to another special edition #WPSchat with our friends at Our Game magazine.

The US Women’s National Team has been in the spotlight over the past month due to their domination in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the Olympic games. Most notably is the young talent that was on display in the final versus Canada where Alex Morgan scored twice and assisted on two more for the US. The youth movement is prevalent in the US national program, no more so in the next star on the scene– Morgan Andrews.Ryan Wood, editor at Our Game magazine,  had the opportunity to sit down with the rising star. We asked Ryan to join this week’s chat to discuss the article, the player, and the youth movement. You will find the interview on page 20 of the February issue.

A week ago,WPS released big news that the 2012 season would be suspended. Since then players have been vocal from posting elaborate blogs to tweeting concern, disbelief, and support. That ripple was felt as well by Our Game Magazine who had an interview feature with then new member of Sky Blue FC Manon Melis by Ciara McCormack. A funny story for the crew at the magazine came out of it (we’ll let them tell it though.) You will find the interview on page 5 of the February issue.

We here at Pitch Side View are excited to be partnering with Our Game again to bring you this chat. Make sure you check out these articles and others in the current issue of Our Game magazine.

Q1: The Youth Movement (Player profile Morgan Andrews) with Ryan Wood

  • What was is like interviewing the rising star?
  • Is her off-field personality different from her on-field personality?
  • How soon do you see her making the jump to the first team?
  • Give us some highlights of her career?

Q2: Center Stage (Manon Melis) with Ciara McCormack

  • Tell us what happened when you learned the news of WPS suspending the 2012 season?
  • What did you have to do to get the article ready to go for this issue?
  • What is next for Manon Melis?
  • What were her thoughts on WPS suspending the 2012 season?

Join us on Monday at 8pm ET to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

It feels great to be back in #WPSChat mode after a brief winter break!

Even in the off-season, exciting plays are being made. In this case, not by players but by Dan Borislow and WPS. Developments last week allow magicJack to play exhibition games this year, and avoid further legal action. Borislow was quoted as saying “It was a win-win-win here,” said Borislow via email. “I won, the league won and my team won. The fourth win is actually the fans and soccer.”  This week’s topic was suggested by longtime chat participant, unwavering advocate of women’s soccer, and Canadian through and through. Thanks to @Ingridium for the great suggestion!

Q1: Women’s Professional Soccer

  • How is this a win for WPS?
  • In what way may WPS lose with this outcome?
  • Will this confirm the detractors of the league? Why or why not?
  • What complications could come about from this decision?

Q2: Dan Borislow

  • How is this a win for Dan?
  • In what way might Dan lose with this outcome?
  • What are possibilities that Dan faces?

Q3: magicJack Team & WPS Players

  • How is this a win for the players?
  • In what way may the players lose with this outcome?
  • What does this mean for magicJack Team?

Join us on Monday at 8pm ET to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

On my last day at the 65th NSCAA Convention, I’m saying farewell but I’m leaving inspired. The last day turned out to be the busiest, and to have a little international flavor to it. It started with an awards breakfast for women’s soccer, next was a session on social media for college coaches, followed by a lecture on player development in Mexico. This was all before lunch time. The second half of the day  kicked off with the NSCAA All-America Luncheon, then a lecture on Japanese youth development, and ended with a session on Australian women’s soccer. Here is my recap of my last (and busiest) day at the NSCAA Convention.

I woke up bright and early to take in the women’s soccer breakfast in honor Sue Ryan, winner of the 2011 NSCAA Women’s Committee Award of Excellence. There was a healthy dose of laughs from every speaker that kept the mood light and entertaining. The comedic line-up featured Amanda Vandorvort (Co-Chair, NSCAA Women’s Committee), Paul Payne (NSCAA President), Alejandra Miller (Adidas Representative), Joe Cummings (NSCAA CEO & Executive Director), Tom Sermanni (Australian Women’s National Coach), John Daly (College of William & Mary Women’s Coach), and the woman of the hour– Sue Ryan (Stony Brook University Women’s Coach). Let’s just say Sue may have a second career in stand-up comedy. Although the laughs seemed to be non-stop, Sue’s acceptance speech truly hit home for me.

After the light hearted breakfast, I was pulled back into reality by a session on social media for college coaches. This lecture was presented by Janet Judge (Sports Law Associates LLC) where she brought light to the seriousness of how social media could be used to the detriment of a university and the athletic program. Coaches in attendance got the do’s and don’ts on the use of social media and also the ins and outs of social media for their student athletes.

Next was the lecture on player development in Mexico. The lecture was presented by Jose Enrique Vaca Pacheco (General Coordinator) and Juan Carlos Ortega Orozco (Technical and Tactical Coordinator). This was very interesting- the national program’s mission is more than just sports related. It aims to help improve the lives of their players and social concerns of the country. This seems like a daunting task but the governing soccer body is making great leaps to achieve these goals. It was uplifting to see what impact the game can have on a life and a country.

After leaving this great session, I made my way to the NSCAA 2012 All-America Luncheon which was packed. The mood of this reception was fun as Joe Cummings continued his comedic routine from the morning and was followed by Sunil Gulati (US Soccer President). The main event was Taylor Twellmen whose story is nothing short of inspirational. If you are not aware of Taylor’s story, please take a look here –  ThinkTaylor.

That may already seem like a full, exhausting day, but I was energized and excited for the next session. Tom Boyer (Director of Tom Boyer Academy) presented on the development of the Japanese youth system. If you watched the Japanese Women’s National Team win the 2011 Women’s World Cup, you saw the outcome of the system that set the team up for success.  Soccer has clearly become a way of life in Japan. The development consists of using pop-culture to reach young athletes through TV segments, cartoons, and comics to teach them technical skills. The technical skills are reenforced through camps and soccer-specific schools.

The last event of my 2012 NSCAA convention was a session on the changing philosophy and perception of the Australian Women’s National Team. Tom Sermanni, the coach of the Women’s National Team, gave a first-hand account on why a change was needed and how he made it happen. Known for being a strong physical team and playing “not to lose,” Sermanni focused on becoming a positive possession team and going after the win. After watching his team play in the Word Cup last year, the connection and progression is clear.

I plan to close my convention with a big THANK YOU to everyone at the NSCAA– not only for their hard work putting on this event, but more importantly for what they do every day of every year to drive forward a game I love. Looking forward to seeing everyone next year!

My second day at the NSCAA convention was all about the player. The first event I attended focused on the differences in coaching female versus male athletes. Then I learned about a new product by Korrio that supports player safety. But the highlight of the day was seeing players have their dreams fulfilled by being drafted into the WPS. Here is my recap of Day 2 at the NSCAA Convention.

I started the day at a lecture about effectively coaching female athletes presented by Vanessa Martinez-Lagunas, a FIFA women’s soccer instructor. This session really broke down the differences from a scientific basis and first hand experience . Vanessa was diligent in providing concrete information as well as practical ways for coaches to handle and coach to the differences in female players. I was impressed with the presentation and delivery. Anyone attending that session should feel confident about coaching female players.

I took a break from the lecture schedule to meet with Steve Goldman, the CEO of Korrio. They are adding to a new tool to their existing youth sports platform that helps manage player safety. The Computerized Cognitive Assessment Tool (CCAT) by Axon Sports will allow families and sports clubs, teams, and leagues a convenient way to manage concussions in young athletes. The platform allows leagues, teams, and clubs to require a baseline test during registration. This test sets a standard for each individual player, keeping track of their behavior before a concussion or head injury. In an instance where this test hasn’t been done, it is near to impossible to determine that child’s state of mind prior to them getting the concussion. Prior to CCAT, a parent would need to schedule an appointment with their child’s doctor to get a baseline test done– imagine fitting that into your already busy schedule. With concussions on the rise (1 and 10 athletes will experience concussions this year ) Korrio is taking a lead in helping leagues, teams, clubs, and parents conveniently manage player health and safety.

The day ended with a bang– the WPS draft. It was touch and go for a moment (the internet crashed), but that turned out to be a tiny blimp on the radar. The room was brimming with energy and excitement  as players and teams started to fall into place. WPS CEO Jennifer O’Sullivan lead the way and I believe this signifies a lot of what is to come; with the challenges she and the league have faced thus far, they’ll need to maintain that positive outlook to keep prevailing. Speaking from the live event side, this year’s draft was a step up in the right direction from last year. The commentary and interviews with players and coaches in between breaks were interesting and insightful.

Tomorrow is the my last day of the convention and though I don’t want it to end, I’ll make sure to enjoy every minute!

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