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Op-Ed \ Steve Sampson

New California ODP philosophy produces exciting results in 99.

Special to SoccerTimes

(Tuesday, September 21, 1999) -- Under the direction of former United States national men's coach Steve Sampson, Southern California in a revolutionary change from past national practices has instituted a scouting system that has replaced the tryout format in the Olympic Development Program. Here is a report.

By Steve Sampson
Technical Director
California Youth Soccer Association-South
Olympic Development Program

The Olympic Development Program has never known greater success than what the CYSA-South state teams experienced the spring and summer of 1999. The effort of the players and coaches was rewarded with overwhelming success in both the Reebok Cup and regional camp.

This past spring CYSA-South dominated Northern California and Oregon in the annual Reebok Cup by winning seven out of the nine age groups for boys and girls. In July, our state teams demonstrated why they are the best in the West by winning almost every age group (seven out of nine) and by placing more players on regional teams than in any other year in the history of ODP in Southern California.

The reason for such great success is evident every day when we observe the quality of players our coaches are developing in our club system here in Southern California.

Furthermore, with the new philosophy in CYSA-South that ODP will not conflict with official club competitions the ODP has won the support of club coaches and officials. And because of this new relationship between ODP and the clubs coaches are more willing to release their best players and to promote them to participate at the state level.

CYSA-South has also implemented a new scouting program as a means to identify the best players in Southern California. The scouting program hires unaffiliated scouts that promote greater objectivity in the selection process. The scouts must have played and/or coached professionally or at the collegiate level as a requirement to be hired. Identifying players in their natural environment under highly competitive conditions has already proven successful with CYSA-South having placed dozens of scouted players on current regional teams.

This program is a pilot program for the rest of the country and is supported by the United States Soccer Federation's 2010 committee. It has been granted a minimum of $150,000 on a matching fund basis for this fiscal year with additional funding to be announced sometime next year.

In August, the scouting program replaced District trials to identify the state team pools. All club coaches in Southern California will also be invited to participate in the identification process by recommending players to the state scouts. Once a club coach has recommended a player, it is the responsibility of the scouting program to go watch the individual play with their club team.

Recommendation forms can be obtained in the team packets distributed at the beginning of the year or via the web site. Scouts will be observing players (boys and girls) in tournament, league, State Open Cup and National Cup competitions. In November the initial pool of 40 players per age group will be announced. However, the pool will be adjusted throughout the year depending on the level of play of the existing pool and the play of others outside the pool.

This will keep the competition within the pool at its optimum while also providing an avenue for players that develop throughout the year an opportunity to be added to the pool. A state coach will be able to select 18 to 22 players from the pool at the time of state, regional or national competition much like a national team.

National ODP Championship

USYSA has announced that there will be a National ODP Championship for 1982 and 1984 boys and girls. The four state teams will compete in January 2000 for the Regional Championship and if they qualify will compete in the National Championship in February 2000. Both the regional and national championships will take place in Phoenix. It is proposed that USYSA expand its national championship to four different age groups for 2001.

National scouts and national team coaches will be in attendance for the regional and national championships to select players to the national pool. All other state teams will continue to attend regional camp in July of 2000. With the national ODP championship occurring at the same time that high school soccer competes in Southern California we will have formal ODP training and competition during the high school season.

CIF allows for ODP training and competition however efforts will be made to work with the high school coaches such that ODP does not conflict with their programs. Training and competition will take place on the weekends and when there is a conflict with official high school competition the high school will be the priority with the exception of the regional and national championships.

Once high school ends ODP training and competition will cease until the Far West Regionals for National Cup has ended in late spring. The state-scouting program will once again observe players in the Open and National Cup to look for new talent and to reconfirm the players that were originally selected to the pool. Players that will be competing in the Snickers National Championship in Orlando in July will be exempt from state team training and competition due to the fact that national scouts will be in attendance in Orlando. Participating in a national championship with your club team is such an honor and a privilege that ODP should not interfere with that once in a lifetime opportunity.

The development of players in Southern California is primarily the responsibility of the clubs and that ODP should not interfere with that development. It is the responsibility of CYSA-South to supplement that development by identifying and allowing the best players in the state to play along side each other and against other select teams domestically and internationally. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of CYSA-South to aid in the promotion of its best players to the youth national teams, the MLS, project 40, the "A" league and the best college programs in the country.

The success of ODP is a direct result of the quality of players, coaches and level of competition in Southern California. We have initiated a new ODP program that hopefully will be the standard for the entire country but it will continue to need cooperation from everyone in order for it to truly succeed. We look forward to working with club officials, club coaches and the parents for the benefit of the players.

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