04 Sep Olympic Development Program
The Olympic Development program was established in 1977 (boys) 1982 (girls) to identify a pool of players in each age group from which a National Team would be selected for international competition and to enhance the development of players at all levels. This program is part of USYouthSoccer.
As an ODP staff coach, I see the value in the program and I believe it is still the best method for identifying National Team talent available in the United State today. I also believe it is an excellent supplemental tool for player development, especially for youth not associated with top level teams or training. However, I believe that there is a limit to the effectiveness and need of this program. I will attempt to explain.
If your child appears to be a gifted soccer player and believes they are national team material, they are in luck because every year the US has a tryout through the ODP. Throughout the tryout process athletes receive additional coaching to supplement the coaching they are receiving with their local team. Tryouts for the various national teams start as young as 12. I fully endorse the ODP program until your child reaches 15 years-old or a freshman in high school.
By the time your child is in High School parents and players need to give more careful thought to the direction they want to go with soccer. Some players are looking to make the national team, some their high school team, whichever direction you want to go will determine the value of the ODP program to you.
If your child is playing for a top-level team and has not made the ODP State or Regional Team by U15 my feeling is it’s time to move on. Remember, this is a national team tryout. If they haven’t made the state team, they are not going to be looked at for the regional team or national team. Turn your attention back to your club and HS teams, focus on being successful at those levels, maybe at the college level and enjoy soccer.
If your child is not playing for a top-level team continuing to try out and participate in ODP is still a good idea, even if they don’t make a regional or national team, the supplemental training they are receiving is beneficial.
The main idea here is that as your child ages we need to be more conscious of and about how much and where we are getting our structured training from. Too much formal training in the teenage years can lead to overuse injuries and burnout.
Example 1: Carly has been playing club soccer for 6 years with a very strong competitive team and doing ODP for 3 and this winter she wants to play for her championship-winning High School team. If she did all 3 Carley would be very busy practicing 2-4 times a week with games on the weekend. She has made the ODP state pool and team but has never been asked to play on the regional team. Finally, she would like to play college soccer after HS.
My advice: Skip ODP. You don’t appear to be on the regional or national team radar and while I understand anything could happen/change there are other ways to be noticed by the national team. Spend the next few years developing as a player, showing well at Showcases, camps, and clinics and having a great HS experience. Between a skilled club and HS team, I don’t see the value is doing more ODP.
Example 2: Maggie plays for an average club team for 6 years and has also been participating in ODP for the last 3. Maggie also plans to play for her championship HS team in the winter. Maggie has never made the ODP state or pool teams or regional pool or teams. Maggie too would like to play at the collegiate level.
My advice: Participate in ODP for the supplemental training. Even if the state or regional teams don’t ask you to play, the extra training would be good for development. Maggie will also continue to develop as a player and should attend showcases, clinics, and camps to be noticed by college coaches.
Example 3: Emily participates in the ODP program and last year made the Regional team and was invited to a few international events. She plays for a top-level club and high school team and plans to play at the collegiate level.
My advice: See ODP through for another year. See if you can get any national team nods, but if you are not in the top 50 by the end of your Sophmore year, it might be time to move on and focus on a college career.
These are my suggestions, but I am not completely familiar with your individual situation so use your own judgment. If the ODP program fits into your goals keep at it, if not, enjoy it while it works.
BTW: As usual, parents need to be aware of overuse injuries. If your child is dealing with a nagging ankle or knee injury take some time off and heal. Soccer will still be there when you return and there is always room for a great player.