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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.

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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.

There was something nice about the US Youth Soccer Workshop being hosted in Boston. That would be convenience– I have to admit it was a great feeling to be able to come back to my own bed after the days activities. My admittance or liking for convenience isn’t what you are reading this blog post for, but it is for the latter part of the previous statement the “days activities”.

The day started with a simple MBTA transit ride to Hynes Convention Center.

Once at the workshop I picked up my credentials minutes before my first workshop. Website design, best practices and where it is going – the presentation gave practical information for leagues, teams, and coaches to create or manage their web presence. The presenter was Shawn Griffin from Americaneagle.com, a leader in web design for many soccer programs including US Youth Soccer. The information was explained in detail without using too much jargon which was perfect for the audience. At the end Griffin opened it up to questions and was able to answer them with expert knowledge.

Next on the schedule was the exhibit hall. The first stop on the exhibit floor was at the Korrio booth where I learned about their recent survey regarding sports concussion. (Look for a future post about this.) If you’re not familiar with their efforts, check out my sit down with Korrio CEO Steve Goldman at the 2012 NSCAA Convention. As I made my way through the booths of trophies, uniforms, and equipment suppliers, I found the Boston Breakers/Berkshire Soccer Academy booth. The Breakers had great give aways (stickers and bracelets) and player Cat Whitehill was signing autographs. It was a great time hanging and chatting with the crew from the Breakers, and coach Caitlin and Eric from Berkshire soccer academy.

I had a little extra time between my exhibit tour and the next workshop so I made my way to the corner Starbucks to get a quick energy boost. It may have been the coffee but the next workshop was the highlight of the day. The session was women’s soccer in the middle east with presenter Sari Rose. Although Sari had computer trouble– or should I say potential computer virus– the presentation was captivating. Sari’s work which took her into more than a few countries in the middle east is more than inspirational. I am so moved that I am hoping to work with Sari.  Who knows– maybe a chat is in the future?

The day wrapped up with an on-field demonstration of drills to work on “speed of play”. Bryan Scales, the New England Revolution Director of Youth Development, ran through drills which focused on developing the mental skills of the players in tight and tough game situations. The drills used one touch passing, offense to defense to offense transition speed, and help and support decision-making. The drills then tied into a game at the end. It was a great way to end the day and workshop.

At the end of the day, I felt energized and excited about the future of youth soccer in the US.

“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.

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!

It is hard to believe that the 2012  draft is less than a month away. Just last week, the WPS site released a list of top picks for the 2012 WPS Draft  in run up to January’s events. And this gives us an opportunity to look at how these new players can affect the league.

As the 2011 season played out, many WPS teams became aware of their deficiencies and one of the key ways to address them is in the draft. In years past, WPS draft picks have made big impacts for their teams, in the league, and in the world of soccer. 2010 WPS rookie of the year Ali Riley was the right fit for FC Gold pride, helping them win a championship. 2011 Rookie of the year Christen Press was a top 5 leader in the league for scoring. Overall #1 picks Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan have been stellar in international play, helping the USWNT to be one of the best in the world. The draft has proved that women’s college soccer programs develop quality players that are WPS ready.

The chat wants to know where you thought teams needed to improve from the 2011 season, which college players you think will stand above the rest, and who has the ability to come out strong in their WPS debut to bring balance and improve team performance.

Q1: The 2011 Season

  • The Beat: where do the need to improve most from the 2011 season?
  • The Breakers: where do the need to improve most from the 2011 season?
  • The Flash: where do the need to improve most from the 2011 season?
  • The Independence: where do the need to improve most from the 2011 season?
  • Sky Blue: where do the need to improve most from the 2011 season?

Q2: The Prospects

  • Which players have the talent to make a big impact on WPS in 2012?
  • What are your top 5 picks coming out of college?
  • Who do you think will be in the running for the 2012 WPS rookie of the year?

Q3: The Perfect Fit

  • Which college players fill the gap for your WPS team? Why?

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.

The “future” of WPS has been the talk of the media since the inception of the league. The talk mostly surrounds the growth of the league, the financial health of the league, addition of teams, and the closing of franchises. But what about the real “future” — the up and coming talent that will become the league’s next stars? That talent will be on display over the next month or so in the NCAA Women’s College Cup.

The chat will look for your evaluation of the players, the teams, and the programs that are looking to win the ultimate prize of the season, a championship.

Q1: The Players

  • What players are you most looking forward to displaying their talents in the tournament?
  • Which players will have the most impact for their teams during the college cup?
  • Which current college players do you want to see play in WPS in the future?

Q2: The Teams

  • What teams are you looking forward to see in the tournament?
  • What teams have the best chances of advancing deep into the college cup?
  • Is there a sleeper team who will make a good run? What teams do you see as the sleepers?

Q3: The Programs

  • Which women’s soccer programs are making an unexpected splash this season?
  • What program is an up and coming program for the future?
  • Do the traditional power programs need to take it to the next level if they are to continue to be power programs?

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.

Welcome to another special edition #WPSchat with our friends at Our Game Magazine. We’ll be discussing two articles from the latest issue.

Ever wonder what a professional athlete goes through in the off-season to prepare for the upcoming season? The article Rest and Recovery, Regeneration: Preparing for Next Season in this month’s Our Game Magazine tells us how the best of the best get ready for the season ahead. The chat will discuss how a player treats off-season training impacts their performance during the season.

At the highest level of women’s soccer, the performance gap between the national teams is closing and closing fast. American universities and soccer programs offer international players an opportunity to train that remains unparalleled. The article Living and Playing the American Dream in this month’s Our Game Magazine covers the experience of several international players who are playing the game they love and continuing their education. The chat will look at this opportunity presented to international players and how it impacts the game at the highest level.

We here at Pitch Side View suggest you check out these articles and others in the current issue of Our Game Magazine.

Q1: Next Season Preparation

  • What impact does training in the off-season have on a player’s conditioning for the up-coming season?
  • What are the benefits or detriments of playing year round for a player?
  • What is the best approach to off-season training– team or individual training? Why?

Q2: Living and Playing the American Dream

  • What impact does international recruiting by US universities have on the development of the US game?
  • Do you see international players learning and developing under US university soccer programs as a benefit to the game? How?
  • In recent years, the disparity in play at the highest level has closed. Do you think there a connection correlation between this and the rise in international players playing for US Universities? Why or why not?

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.

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