Mar 19, 2013

The Lonely Position - NWSL, Pre-Season with the Washington Spirit

By Lloyd Yaxley

So here we are 3rd time lucky with the formation of a new women's professional league in America. In previous years there was the WUSA (Women's United Soccer Association) this league lasting under two years three seasons.

Next was the WPS (Women's Professional Soccer) this league lasting three seasons.

And now here we are at the beginning of a new era. The NWSL (National Women's Soccer League). Before you all click the red cross in the top right hand corner I have neither the time or knowledge to decipher why the two previous leagues failed and I'm certainly not going to bore you on "what we are going to do differently".

What I am going to do though is say LETS LOOK TO THIS EXCITING FUTURE!  AND GET BEHIND IT!

There was a mixture of allocations, drafts, and free agents whilst beginning to form the eight teams (basic outline there! really basic!!).
So what next....... that's right Pre-Season! 

I'm really fortunate to be given the opportunity to coach the goalkeepers for one of these teams -- The Washington Spirit. 

Our pre-season camp started last Monday where I met one of the goalkeepers, Chantel Jones, whom I will be working with throughout the season. Chantel played at UVA and had just returned from playing in Iceland. Meanwhile our other goalkeeper, Ashlyn Harris, was away with the US Women's National team making her international debut against Sweden in the Algarve Cup.

So unluckily for Miss Jones she has had to deal with me alone for the time being.

This week for me has been about a few different things: 1) getting to know my player/players, 2) seeing what level of fitness she is at! 3) pushing her as much as I can to perform even when exhausted.

Day 1 was ladder work variations, into basic handling saves, after a brief rest then we where using the width of the 18 yard box to do what I would call "up and down' variation  drills! i.e. dive to left..get up...dive to right...get up dive to left etc etc etc all the way across the width of the penalty area. Quote from day one "I'm not as fit as I thought I was!" 

Day 2 was.....wet .....very wet- again a tonne of footwork.

Day 3 Windy....very windy!!!! Today we focused on our core lots of sit up kind of drills with volleys as rest periods,  by now I'm sure a picture of me was on a dartboard in Chantel's house.

Day 4 Medicine ball and upper body work- again volleys for rest periods, in the afternoon we where inside working on handling and reaction times with a shot coming off the wall.

Day 5 Lighter- kicking back passes talked about pre-game warm up.

In between all of this we where integrated with the rest of the team for other exercises.

So the week has been filled with fitness, wind, rain and saving everything the field players hit at us!! 

Even with a statement "I'm not as fit as I thought I was" which I thought was a little harsh on herself, Chantel took everything I threw her way and worked her butt off the whole week. She has a fantastic work ethic, great attitude, and is constantly looking to improve her game. These three attributes are why she is a professional soccer player.

Game day rolled around on Sunday where we played Penn State- winning the game 1-0.
Two big break-away saves in the 2nd half when the game was tied at 0-0 which all of the coaching staff were very happy with. All in all a decent performance- all goalkeepers are looking for perfection, there were some things we spoke about that we felt she could have done better during the game but sorry, that discussion will remain between us! I can guarantee you those things will be tidied up over the next few weeks.

This past week has just been the start of the journey, next is where the competition for that starting spot really begins when Ashlyn and the other internationals join the squad! I am confident that both these players will push each other to perform to their absolute max. 

Next up, more training followed by Duke at 3pm on Sunday. Come out and watch, tickets are free so you have no excuse! Then you can see what all these hours of training go towards.

Again, any comments tweet me @GKeepersUnited and come to support the Washington Spirit. (go here for your Free Tickets for the pre-season friendlies)

The Lonely Position: Voodoo Goalkeepers