Back in August, Philip Salyer visited the link that revealed who would be in his girls soccer class for 2018-2019 at Trophy Club Nelson.
In previous years, clicking it was ho-hum. This year brought a little angst.
Starting this year, a new rule initiated by the United States Soccer Federation forces athletes to decide if they are going to play for their high school team or the United States Soccer Federation Develop Academy team.
“Over the summer, it was just the unknown,” Salyer said. “I found out two weeks before school started. I was pretty fortunate. I had seven starters coming back from last year. They’re all back.”
Salyer and other area girls coaches are in new territory.
The season starts Jan. 4. Southlake Carroll and Fort Worth Nolan host the National Elite Prep Showcase. Coaches have known for months who will and won’t play. It still didn’t make it any easier.
The rule impacted players who were expected to contribute as freshman and others who had spent time in their respective program and did not return.
Losses varies around the area. At Nelson, one incoming freshman did not come out. Grapevine coach Steve McBride said three players moved to the academy team. Carroll coach Matt Colvin had five that did not return. The coaches declined to reveal names.
The caveat is that academy players can leave that program and return to their high school team if they choose. However, their return depends on whether the player and coach can work on an equitable resolution.
This rule is also geographical. It impact could go beyond such powers as Nelson, Carroll and Grapevine.
“It’s a Catch-22,” McBride said. “We knew the first day who was not coming after we did exit player interviews when the season ended. You want to do what’s best for those girls who have a desire to play.
“If someone drops out of the academy and wants to return, it’s a unique situation. But we’re a family, and we have to look at the big picture.”
The decision to force a choice is for players who aspire to the United States national women’s soccer team. However, there are those players who have already solidified their college aspirations and may continue to play with their high school team.
Colvin, McBride and Salyer said they each had discussions with parents about the differences and benefits of doing one over the other. They provided as much information as possible so families could make the best choice.
Salyer said he has talked with other coaches who said that a lot of their top players chose to return to high school. However, that swers could change next year.
“I really expect this to make an impact in the next four years,” Salyer said. “Right now, the juniors and seniors want to play for their high school teams because that’s what they’ve done. Most of the players now enjoy coming back and see the value of playing high school.”
Defections can change how a team plays. Prolific-scoring teams may not have as many options. Ball-control teams may not have the defense they once did. A change at keeper could make the difference from being a state title contender to bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.
Since the coaches have known what their rosters could look like for months, they made changes to their strategy if necessary. Adjustments come with any sport.
“We haven’t done much of anything different,” Colvin said. “We assessed our first players the first three weeks and identified strengths and weaknesses. The only component of our offseason we changed is increasing the competitive aspect.”