Over the next four weeks, I will try to give you an in-depth look at the new Cal South Pro+ program, how our ODP program fits into the new system, and how players, by age, are selected to our Pro+ pools. For this week, we will get a basic introduction to the Pro+ system, and then a quick look at the first of the four guiding principles behind Pro+: identification.
Many people have asked why Cal South recently changed from their existing Olympic Development and Young Olympians Programs. The answer is quite simple. It's called progress.
While ODP did, and will continue to do, a great job in identifying players and allowing them to train and compete at the next level, we were forced to recognize that the needs of our club players has changed over time. It is not a surprise, then, to learn that the better soccer player you are, the more you end up paying to play, which creates burdens on parents and on teams, especially when travel expenses are brought into the mix.
The goal of Pro+ is to grow other programs (including ODP), but not to limit our identification possibilities to just ODP. As you are likely aware, we oversee Under-23 and other adult leagues, and we feel there is potential there as well to include some form of identification program in the future. As a leading state association, counting some of the most successful clubs and leagues in the country among our membership, we felt the old model needed definite changes. We also felt
strongly that "inclusion" is the key to finding more players for our state and national teams. Before we implemented the Pro+ program, we made sure all of the necessary elements were in place, especially where advancement was concerned.
In the old model, players would go to a regional event along with 12-13 other states, which a single National Staff coach would attend for identification purposes. In the new Pro+ ID camp program, we invited Washington's PDP teams to join us to provide competition, and we brought in two staff coaches from U.S. Soccer. The cost for the players at this Pro+ camp? Free. There will still be some travel when Cal South participates in the regional and national ODP championships
annually (in January and March, respectively), but that has changed as well. In the past, the players' families had to cover a large amount of the costs. Players will now only pay a minimum fee to travel to these events.
What is Pro+?
Pro+ is the most progressive player identification and development system in the United States combining all of Cal South's current and future elite player development initiatives under one integrated structure. The four guiding principles (or areas of emphasis) of the Pro+ system are the identification, development, inclusion and advancement of the top male and female soccer players throughout Southern California.
Is the word "Pro" an acronym or about making youth players professionals?
No, the word "Pro" is being used as a preposition, which means "to be in favor of." Our goal is to help players advance to the next highest level that is available to them, whether it be a youth national team, college or becoming a professional player.
Principle 1: Identification
Cal South believes that players are best identified in their natural game-playing environment by professional scouts. We have developed a high-level scouting system over the past twelve years and are creating a more robust technological platform to identify and track players as they progress through this system. As more emphasis goes towards our younger age groups, the reach of our scouting and identification efforts under Pro+ will be greatly intensified as our player pools are
larger in those younger age groups.
As in the past, our main identification events are the Sports Authority State Cup and Cal South National Cup. We also identify some players through our summer camp program, during league play, and at selected tournaments. Around 900 games were covered this year at State and National Cup by Pro+ staff. We identified over 500 players in the Youngers 2000 and 1999 age groups; these players were then invited to our player pool training weekends. At the Olders competitions, we
identified 350 players in the '96, '97 and '98 age groups.
There are a number of other ways players can be selected for Pro+. Club technical directors, directors of coaching, team coaches, and even opposing club coaches can also recommend players. Individual players that are recommended this way will be scouted in league play from September through December and at State and National Cup. Additionally, open showcases will be held to provide players the chance to be scouted by Pro+ staff. The two groups from which Cal South Pro+ will not
accept player recommendations are parents and private trainers. Cal South accepts player recommendations for all age groups from September to November, and again in February and March.