A. PURPOSE OF STATE SELECTION PROGRAM
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE STATE SELECT TEAM PROGRAM (SST)/ODP?
The SST/ODP was created by US Soccer around 25 years ago for two purposes:
1) To identify national team players early, at the youth level.
2) To provide development opportunities for these potential national team players.
To this day, these two core purposes, namely, IDENTIFY and DEVELOP for the national team, have not changed. However, many players have also come to associate SST/ODP with improved opportunities for playing college soccer and getting college scholarships. This is because many college coaches work on SST/ODP staff at the state, regional, and national levels and also most college coaches scout players at SST/ODP events. College coaches consider a player’s participation in SST/ODP as an indicator of talent and soccer ambition.
B. AGE GROUP CATEGORIES
WHY ARE SST/ODP AGE DIVISIONS DIFFERENT FROM CLUBS?
The SST/ODP is a feeder system into the National Youth Teams. Hence, it has to be in line with the international age classification. National Teams must abide with FIFA’s (the international governing body for soccer) age classification, which follows the calendar year. An SST/ODP age group therefore goes from January 1st to December 31st, while the American youth clubs use August 1st to July 31st.
WHICH AGE GROUPS ARE ELIGIBLE FOR SST/ODP?
The SST/ODP age group refers to the year in which a player was born. For example, players born between January 1, 1996 to December 31, 1996 are classified as 96’s. For the 2013/2014 seasonal year, the following age groups are eligible: 97, 98, 99, 00, 01 & 02. Players born in 2003 are too young for the 2013/2014 ODP year and must wait for next year.
C. PLAYER SELECTION AT STATE LEVEL
WHAT IS THE PLAYER SELECTION PROCESS AT THE STATE LEVEL IN LOUISIANA?
Players are selected in Louisiana on the basis of open tryouts (00, 01 & 02 Age Groups) or closed tryouts (97, 98 & 99 Age Groups) conducted by the Louisiana Soccer Association. Our State Coaches are experienced college and club coaches, selected by the LSA State Technical Director and approved by the LSA Executive Board. They have been recognized for their abilities to identify and train players with superior talents. Players are scouted year round from events such as Louisiana Competitive Soccer League, Region III Premier League, National League, State Cup and Southern Regionals. The Scouting Staff will consist of LSA, Region III and US Soccer personnel. The LSA Technical Director will coordinate and have final approval on invitations to the closed tryouts.
CAN PLAYERS BE CUT FROM THE STATE POOL AFTER THE TRYOUTS ARE OVER?
In all the age groups, once a player is selected in the fall to the State Pool, he/she is eligible to participate in all the training and events until May of the following year. After May, the process depends on the age group and the depth of talent available. The three oldest groups cut the pool down to a State Team of 16-18 players plus alternates in May and only take one team to camp.
CAN PLAYERS BE ADDED TO THE STATE POOL AFTER THE TRYOUTS ARE OVER?
Players can be added under the following circumstances: Immediately after the State Tryouts, once the State Pools are announced, club DOC’s who feel very strongly that the Evaluators missed a quality player can contact the State Director of Coaching. If the State DOC is satisfied that the club DOC is familiar with the ODP level and has a legitimate case, the player in question might be invited to an ODP practice for a second evaluation or a staff coach might be sent to watch the player play a club game. If the player is good enough, he/she might be added to the pool. Club DOC’s are encouraged to contact the State DOC immediately after the tryouts. The longer they wait, the less likelihood of the player being added. Once the fall season is over and the pool has settled down, it is much harder to add more players and it happens only on rare occasions.
Other typical scenarios that might warrant a player added to the pool are: – Quality player moving into Louisiana after the tryouts. – Quality player missing the tryouts due to injury. – Quality player identified by State, Regional, or National staff coach after the tryouts through the scouting network.
Players identified after the tryouts are added to the State Pool only if they are in the top half of the pool and only with approval by the State Director of Coaching. The ODP at the state level has an obligation to identify the best players and put them in front of the Regional and National staff. This is the most important mission of the program.
WHAT IS THE PLAYER SELECTION PROCESS AT THE REGION LEVEL?
At Region Camp, players play against other states each day and are evaluated for selection into the Region Pool in each age group. At the end of camp, a Region Pool of 30-40 players is selected. The Region Pool in most age groups is held over at camp for another 2-3 days to train under the Region Coaches. In the months after camp, Region Teams of 16-18 players will be selected in each age group to participate in National camps, Inter- Regional events, and/or international trips. The National Staff Coaches attend these events and evaluate players for inclusion into National Pools. Please refer to the section on Region Camp below for more details on camp format and regional selection process.
WHAT IS THE TRYOUT PROCESS AT THE STATE LEVEL?
In the selected ages, the tryout process in Louisiana starts with State Tryouts in November. Typically, between 40 to 70 players are involved in a State Tryout, depending on the age group. At the State Tryouts, a State Pool of 15-40 players is selected (the younger ages tend to have bigger pools than the older ages).
WHAT IS THE TRYOUT FEE?
The State Tryout fee is $75. When you register your child for SST/ODP tryouts online, you will be prompted to pay the fee.
WHAT IS THE EXEMPT LIST?
These are players who made the Regional Pools the prior year and do not have to pay the State Tryout Fee.
WHAT IS THE FORMAT OF A TYPICAL SST TRYOUT IN LOUISIANA?
All the tryouts follow the same format. The emphasis is on evaluating players in small-sided games. Ideally, we use 4v4 games most often but sometimes use 5v5 or 6v6, depending on the ratio of players to evaluators and the age group. We use small-sided games for the following reasons: – Each player gets more touches in a short amount of time, allowing us to evaluate everyone more effectively and fairly. – Using small spaces is a great test of the players’ technical and tactical awareness. A poor first touch or poor passing is punished in tight spaces. Quick thinking is needed to succeed. – Small areas eliminate the physical components of size, strength, and fitness, which are not that important at the youth level. More important to focus on and evaluate the technical (first touch, passing, dribbling) and tactical (quick problem solving) components.
In the small-sided games, the Tryout Evaluators observe the players and rate them. All the Evaluators use the same rating system for consistency. The Evaluators observe one group at a time and rotate in order to see all or most of the players. Depending on the numbers, this portion could take from 60 to 90 minutes to accomplish.
Once the small-sided games are done, the Evaluators gather quickly to compare the ratings and compile a tentative list of players. The second part of the tryout consists of 11v11 games, which are used to confirm the list and look for any players that were missed. At the completion of the tryouts, a list of players selected is drawn up and given to the State DOC. This list will be published on the ODP Page of the LSA website as the State Pools.
HOW LONG ARE THE TRYOUTS?
The usual time allocation for SST tryouts are 3 hours. Depending on the numbers involved, the actual length of the tryout could be less than 3 hours. It is up to the Lead Evaluator to decide how long is needed to accomplish the task. Tryouts are physically demanding and if small numbers are involved (i.e. 10-30 players), there is no need to keep the players going for 3 hours since fatigue will start affecting performance.
HOW ARE EVALUATORS SELECTED FOR THE TRYOUTS?
The Evaluators are selected from the LSA State Coaching Staff and have experience at the highest levels of play. Most of the evaluators have participated as assessors of talent at many previous SST tryouts and are familiar with the rating system and player qualities we look for. We try to avoid assigning an Evaluator to the same SST age group as the one he/she coaches at club level.
D. ODP SUB-REGIONAL AND COLLEGE COMBINE CAMP
WHAT IS A SUB-REGIONAL AND COLLEGE COMBINE CAMP?
The Sub-Regional Camp is only for the youngest SST/ODP age group each year both girls and boys. It is a slightly scaled down version of the Regional Camp and is held in Arkansas that will have neighboring States attend so as to lower the costs of the event. It is an introduction to the SST experience that is truly focused around player development.
The College Combine Camp is a three day preparation camp for the selected SST teams to attend in order to prepare these players for the Regional Camp. Other State SST Teams also attend to further the players development with some very competitive games. It also allows for each player to get to know and understand each other better which we hope will show in their successes on the field.
E. ODP REGION CAMP
WHAT IS A REGION?
US Soccer split the country into 4 regions for administrative and logistical purposes. The four regions are known as Region I (Northeast), Region II (Midwest), Region III (Southeast) and Region IV (West). Each region comprises 12-14 State Associations. We are in Region III, together with FL, GA, SC, NC, TN, AL, MS, STX, NTX, OK, and AR. Each Region has a Region Board presided by a Region Director. Each Region also runs the Region ODP. The Regional Director appoints a Region ODP Administrator and a Region ODP Head Coach who, together, are in charge of running the ODP at the regional level.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF REGION CAMP?
The main purpose of Region Camp is to evaluate the players from all the states within our region and select a region pool of players in each age group for further evaluation and competition. All the states send their state teams to camp and play each other in front of the regional staff coaches.
The other purpose of region camp is to expose the players to a higher level of competition and contribute towards their personal development through challenging games and training with high level region staff coaches.
WHEN IS REGION CAMP USUALLY HELD?
Region Camp is usually held in early July each year. The two genders have their own separate camps, each at a different location. Since there are 4-5 age groups to evaluate, the camp is organized into 5-day-long sessions, with each session accommodating one to three age groups. At the end of the 5 day camp, a region pool is selected.
At the Region III Fall (October) Meeting, the dates for region camp for the following summer are set and, shortly after, are posted on our web site.
WHAT IS THE PLAYER SELECTION PROCESS AT THE REGION LEVEL?
At Region Camp, players play against other states each day and are evaluated for selection into the Region Pool in each age group. At the end of camp, a Region Pool of 30-40 players is selected. The Region Pool in most age groups is held over at camp for another 2-3 days to train under the Region Coaches. In the months after camp, Region Teams of 16-18 players will be selected in each age group to participate in National camps, Inter-Regional events, and/or international trips. The National Staff Coaches attend these events and evaluate players for inclusion into National Pools. Please refer to the section on Region Camp below for more details on camp format and regional selection process.
To provide some perspective here, since each region selects a similarly sized pool, when a player is selected for the region pool, he/she is considered in the top 120-160 players in the country in his/her age group. Once a player is selected for a region team, he/she is now considered in the top 60-70 players in the country.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE REGION STAFF?
The Region Head Coach appoints Age Group Coaches and support staff. Each age group has a Head Coach, a couple of Assistant Coaches, a Keeper Coach and additional staff coaches. At region camp, each staff coach is assigned to work with one or two state teams for the duration of the 5 day session. The region staff coach trains the assigned state teams, observes them in games and gets to know all the players by the end of the session. Each night, after the games are played, the region staff meets to discuss the players. Each staff coach announces which players from his own assigned teams impressed him and from this, a preliminary list of potential pool players is created. This process is repeated each night and the list evolves based on players’ performances with their states and in the nightly pool games. As the week rolls, some players are dropped and some are added, based on performance. The region staff holds one last meeting after the last game to finalize the pool which is announced at the end of the camp.
The age group Head Coach does not assign himself to any state teams. The Head Coach is free to move from game to game which allows him to focus on the players recommended by the staff at the nightly meetings.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE STATE COACH?
The State SST Coach prepares his team for region camp and runs the first practice session on day 1. The state coach is also in charge of coaching the state team during the games at region camp. Contrary to popular perception, the state coach has no impact or influence on player selection to the region pool. State Team Coaches are not allowed into the daily region staff meetings where the region pool list is developed. State Team Coaches are not allowed to promote or ‘go to bat’ on behalf a player. The player selection process does not depend on the ability of each state coach to ‘sell’ his players. It is based strictly on the players’ abilities and what the region coaches are looking for in each position.
WHAT PLAYER QUALITIES ARE THE REGION STAFF LOOKING FOR?
Just as at the state tryouts, quality first touch is the most important technical indicator of skill. Can the player control the ball with one touch or does he/she need multiple touches to bring the ball under control? Does the player get away from pressure with first touch or does he/she get into trouble because of a poor touch? This is closely related to the ‘speed of play’ at the elite level. The better the players, the higher the speed of play. In order for players to survive at the higher level’s speed of play, they have to have a good first touch.
The speed of play at the region pool level is much higher than at the state level and requires players to think quicker and control the ball quicker. Since players at this level are physically and mentally sharper, they anticipate and close down on the ball quickly, which means players have to execute their moves in tight areas, often surrounded by multiple opponents who pounce on every poor touch.
Another important attribute is what we call ‘quick feet,’ i.e., the ability to change direction on a dime and shift weight from one foot to the other and evade challenges with quick foot movements. This is, in the long run, an indicator of soccer specific athleticism which is more important than sheer size. As players mature at varying rates, size eventually evens out. But someone with ‘quick feet’ will always have an advantage and is more likely to develop into an ‘explosive’ player, which is so vital at the elite level.
Athleticism becomes very important at the highest level once players mature physically. It is no longer possible to just rely on superior skill without speed, strength and power, since all the players are highly skilled. The better athletes ally their physical attributes to their skill to rise to the top.
Lastly, ‘soccer smarts’ is also evaluated at the region level. Decisions on the ball and off the ball are scrutinized. Being able to ‘read the game’ and understand what kind of pass is needed, how to keep the ball under pressure, where to position oneself, how to help the team maintain a good team shape in attack and in defense, when to support the ball from behind and when to make runs ahead of the ball. All of these problem solving abilities separate the state level player from the region level player.
WHAT IS REGION CAMP FORMAT?
Boys and girls camp vary slightly, but players typically arrive and check in the afternoon of the first day. The state coaches run their own practice on the first evening, after which everyone attends the Opening Ceremonies and dinner. The second, third, and fourth days are similar in format, with one practice session and one game per day. The practices are run by the region staff coach. The fifth and final day typically has a game in the morning, after which the region pools are announced and the state teams depart around lunch time.
On some of the evenings, ‘region pool’ games are used, where players who excelled in the previous state vs state games are pulled from their states and organized into teams and play a game watched by all the region staff. These pool games are important for the selection process as they pit the best players in camp against each other to see who can handle the speed of play and belong at the next level.
HOW MANY GAMES AND PRACTICES ARE THERE IN REGION CAMP?
The key objective in region camp is to maintain a good balance between work and rest, to make sure the players can show their best when it matters. For that reason, players have one game and one practice per day on full days (day 2 to day 4) and one practice or one game on half days (days 1 and 5). Whenever possible, players who are selected to play in pool games sit out their state team game so they don’t play two full games on the same day. It’s not fair on the players to make selections based on fatigue-induced performance since there is so much at stake.
The summer heat and humidity combined with the higher intensity and speed of play at region camp require significant rest periods between activities. Region camp is not like a standard college summer camp or a club tournament, where players are on the field for long periods playing or working on technique. Region camp is a test of ability, not a marathon of games. It’s about quality rather than quantity.
A fact often ignored is that games at region camp require a higher expenditure of energy than regular club games or scrimmages. The higher the skill level, the longer the ball is in play, the less time for recovery, the more intense the sprints and more wear and tear on the body. Games at the elite level require more rest and recovery. In lower level play, the ball takes longer to get from one area of the field to another and the ball is out of bounds more often due to inferior skill. This allows players to rest more and catch their breath while the ball is away from their area. Games against weaker opponents are also less physically demanding since the ball stays in the same half for long periods.
In the past, Region camp used to last six days and involved more games. Camp duration and number of games were recently reduced because mental and physical fatigue became an issue. The camp has evolved into a format that features less field sessions and more lectures and presentations to reduce down time and educate the players on the needs and requirements of elite athletes.
HOW MANY PLAYERS FROM LA TYPICALLY MAKE THE HOLD-OVER REGION POOLS?
Historically, about 5-10% of the players attending region camp from LA make the region pools. Although there is no guarantee and the numbers vary from year to year, on average, out of the 180 or so LA boys and girls who attend region camp each year, about 10-20 get named to the region pools. From these 10-20 pool players, invariably around 4-8 make the region teams and 1-3 make the national pools in their age groups. This makes LA one of the top states in the country for success at placing players at the next level for the total number of players playing in our State.
WHAT BENEFITS DO PLAYERS WHO ARE NOT SELECTED TO REGION POOLS GET FROM REGION CAMP?
Region camp has many other benefits for all the players. It is a chance for players to challenge themselves and gauge themselves against the best in the region. Good players thrive on playing against quality opponents and region camp provides a competition level that is rare. Experts tell us that for elite athletes to reach their potential, they need to play around 30-40 quality games per year where they are pushed by equal or superior opponents. The typical SST/ODP player doesn’t get a sufficient number of such games at the club level because many of these club games are against inferior players. Other than a few top-of-the-table clashes or top club tournaments, club games lack quality on a consistent level. SST/ODP activities and region camp provide additional quality competition to supplement the club competitions.
Region camp can be an inspiring experience. Many players, who are used to being the best in their club team, get a rude awakening at region camp. They get exposed to the very best and become motivated to work harder and make the region pool the next time. For some players, region camp is a humbling experience. They come home highly motivated and with a new perspective. Player development is a long process, a journey affected by many factors and experiences, some positive and some negative. It’s hard to measure the impact each experience has on a player and hard to account for the intangibles. But many top American players look back on their experience at an ODP region camp as one of the turning points in their growth.
Region camp exposes all the players to the top college and national staff coaches. College coaches regard ODP participation and attendance in region camp as an indication of the players’ ability and ambition.
The opportunity to represent your state is another benefit. Pride in accomplishment, meeting players and coaches from other states, and learning a little about oneself and coping with adversity are some of the intangibles as well. If the players who ‘lift a trophy’ are considered the only beneficiaries of an event, everyone else would be missing the point.
F. COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH SST/ODP
WHAT ARE THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH SST/ODP?
The following is the list of events that the Louisiana SST program participated in previous season, and the costs associated with each. The costs of the SST program can vary slightly year over year but this provides a good baseline of what costs to expect.
State Tryout – $75
Pool Training Fees – $125
South TX Sub-Regional Event:
Three youngest age groups Girls and Boys (00, 01, 02) – held in Houston, TX – $150 (approx)
Possible Sub-Regional Event:
Three oldest age groups Girls and Boys (97, 98, 99) – location TBA – $175 (approx)
Arkansas ODP Acaemy Camp:
Youngest age group Girls and Boys (02) – held in AR – $600 (approx)
01 Girls and Boys ONLY – location TBA – $205 (approx)
College Combine Camp:
Oldest four age groups Girls and Boys (97, 98, 99, 00) – held in Monroe, LA – $205 (approx)
Region III Trials:
Oldest five age groups Girls and Boys (97, 98, 99, 00, 01) – held in Alabama $650 (approx)
ARE SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE TO ASSIST WITH THE COST OF SST?
The Louisiana Soccer Association State Select Team Program offers a scholarship program for youth soccer participants who are in need of financial assistance in order to play soccer on a Louisiana State SST team. Each scholarship request is considered on a per event basis and covers a portion of the various fees associated with the SST/ODP program.
The scholarship program exists to provide financial assistance to talented players with financial need. Once a player qualifies for the scholarship program financially, the amount of a scholarship is awarded based on player’s achievements.
Individual scholarships may be awarded up to 80% of the total event fee. The difference between the scholarship amount and the event fee will be the responsibility of the player.