In case you missed it, my girls soccer preview ran in the paper today. For those of you familiar with how our previews usually work, you’ll notice something different. In years past, our stories have focused on one specific player or team. This season we’ve decided to take a broader approach in an effort to cover as many schools as possible.
One trend I did notice that seems to be effecting a large amount of teams in Section 1 are the amount of younger players stepping into big roles for their team. Long gone are the days of freshmen and sophomores having to wait for there time to shine. Last season more than half the locals picked all-section and all-section honorable mention were not seniors. Of the 13 leagues in the section nine had sophomores or juniors earn a portion of the player of the year award. Youngsters are even invading the highest level of honors. Over half of the Section 1 all-state picks—nine of the 16—were sophomores or juniors.
As you’ll see in the story, area coaches have plenty of theories on what is allowing young players to play pivotal roles for their teams. Below are some extra quotes from coaches and players about the growth of successful young players in the area.
Again, don’t forget to check out the full preview here.
HALDANE COACH GARY VAN ASSELT
-Returns Jessica Harrison (third-team all state) and Cali Schweikhart (fourth-team all state).
On the major reason younger players can play big roles:
“I think it all stems from their parents getting them into programs at an early age. Playing on travel teams from when they are very young. They are still doing the combo of their travel team and then playing high school ball, which is the way I think it should go.”
On being used to playing younger girls due to the size of Haldane:
“This is the first year that I’ll have 12 seniors on the team…Haldane is so small. They have 403 kids in total in the whole high school. Usually we’re graduating 3,5,7. This year we have 12. It’s an adoration for this year.”
On preparing girls for playing varsity at a young age:
“I have the JV girls practicing with (varsity). You have the older girls rubbing off on the younger girls. You see what it takes to play at a higher level, which is really good for them also…They get an opportunity to see the training that it takes to become a good player at a young age.”
Playing in a strong youth program at a young age:
“I think it definitely helps they get early experience with the game, just in general. Just touches help.”
On playing year round:
“It definitely helps even seeing older girls, if you play club, older girls playing. You never lose your touch if you’re playing year round.”
BRONXVILLE JUNIOR CHARLEY WARBLE (pictured above, left)
-Second-team all state last season.
On the role of youth programs:
“I know that a solid amount of our players, I think half the girls from last year, had played on the Patriots, which is a really predominant club in this area. I think that that helps because we play year round….I’m staying fit. My touches stay sharp. I think a lot of the younger girls are on the younger team, which helps them to be able to step up as well.”
On continuing to grow as a player after such a successful sophomore season:
“That’s probably the number-one thing on my mind currently. It’s something I struggle over thinking about, but I think that I just have to go out there and play again because if I think too much about trying to live up to whatever expectations come with being named all state last year it might mess with my head or throw me off. If I just think that I’m playing for Coop and playing for my teammates and I’m playing for myself to win, then hopefully I’ll have as successful year as last year.”
BRONXVILLE COACH DON CUPERTINO
-Returns second-team all-state honorees Meredith Donovan and Charley Warble.
On the pros and cons of playing year round:
“Our program is a year round program. I’m not saying kids that play in my club can only play the sport. I don’t. I like them to play other sports. I think they should diversify, especially at a younger age. When they get a little older then they have to make a decision. Absoletely, training year round is going to beneficial to the sport they choose. I’m not saying that’s the thing they should do, but I’m saying it is beneficial for those kids that want to play. You’ve got a basketball player who only plays during the basketball season is not going to be a tremendous basketball player. A soccer player is the same thing. You’re not going to get that good if you’re only playing three months out of the year.”
On playing younger players:
“My program here we look at players 7th through 12th. The school authorizes us to pick out the best kids. We might have an 8th grader who makes varsity where a junior doesn’t. Or an 8th grader who starts and a senior who doesn’t start or hardly plays. But that’s the way it is. We pride ourselves on putting the best kids on the field, and hopefully that’s what we do.”
On motivating players who have already had individual success:
“You’ve got to light a fire under them to make them be hungry. To make them stride to be the best they can. It’s not only for them. Even though she was all state last year, somebody wasn’t. So maybe she can excel her game a little bit to help the next player. I think that helps too.”
CLARKSTOWN SOUTH COACH TOM ROLSTAN
-Returns third-team all-state pick Briana Jean-Charles.
On why younger players seem to be so successful:
“The younger age groups are just playing, there are a ton of good teams that are out there now, and just a lot of the younger girls are coming through. Not that there wasn’t talent before them, but I feel like there are more and more players that are really, really strong.”
On no looking at age when picking teams:
“I went in from the start saying I was going to take the best 20 players, didn’t care what age they were. I didn’t care if the freshmen weren’t going to play. If they were talented enough to compete than they would at least develop in practice with the older girls.”
On the benefits of getting pulled up to varsity as a youngster:
“If I’m a star on a JV team than I feel like I’m going to be content with just being a star. I’ll stop working on bettering myself because I’ll know I’m the best on the field already. There is nothing more to do. I might become too cocky if that happens. The fact that I was put in a more challenging environment it kind of helped me to push myself. Gave me something to work towards.”
BRIARCLIFF COACH OWEN SCULLY
-Returns first-team all-state recipient Sarah Goldstein (pictured above, right).
On not looking at age when selecting a team:
“I always base it on talent. I don’t look at age at all. It doesn’t play into the decision at all. It’s got to be talent based. If you’re able to perform on the field and contribute to the team than you are a player that needs to be there.”
On why younger players are able to be so successful:
“I myself train kids from a very young age all the way up to the high school. The kids start so much younger today. I found maybe 10-15 years ago kids were starting a bit later. Now they are starting very young. The standard of training has really improved tremendously. I think that is starting to show in the kids.”
BYRAM HILLS COACH MIKE MARTINO
-Returns fourth-team all-state pick Nicole Hoffman.
On how a youngster can benefit from playing varsity:
“I think it comes down to drive and dedication. If you surround a player like that. Good players will push her to take her game to the next level.”
On motivating girls who have already had high individual accomplishments:
“There are up-and-coming younger players that are really going to push the senior girls to not plataue and really keep their jersey rather than be complacent with it. ‘Oh I made this achievement this, well someone else is trying to hit that same achievement.”