goalWA.net is pleased to continue with a soccer club columnist to our website. He’s Adam Nowland, founder of Bellevue / Mercer Island area’s Nowland Premier Soccer Academy. Adam addresses soccer topics from his point of view in the new series “Soccer Perspectives with Adam Nowland.”
by Adam Nowland
Soccer has grown significantly in popularity in the United States since I first came to this area on a pre-season tour with Preston North End FC back in 2007, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.
As residents of the Pacific Northwest, we are fortunate to have such a large and passionate soccer community. When people discuss Washington soccer, they often associate this State with the Seattle Sounders. However, I believe we sometimes overlook what is happening with women’s soccer in this part of the country and I would like to see this change.
Women’s soccer in the northwest is flying but I don’t believe it gets the recognition it deserves. There are so many incredible women’s programs around us, and I feel they should be respected and appreciated as much as possible.
The Seattle Sounders are an awesome organization and quite rightly have a huge following but we also have a fantastic women’s team right in our backyard in the Seattle Reign. In recent years, the Reign have had a lot of success in the NWSL, placing first in the league in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, despite having a significant number of injuries, they just barely missed the playoffs. They have a lot of incredibly talented women on the squad, including Megan Rapinoe, a US National team starter and huge role model for young players. The Reign offers a great atmosphere for the young players of our youth soccer community to go out and watch some top-level women’s soccer players compete.
Additionally, let’s not forget that collegiate women’s soccer is huge here in Washington too. Western Washington University and Seattle University have solid women’s soccer programs, both of which have had a great deal of success. SU in particular have only lost 1 conference game since 2013! If you venture north of Seattle, Western Washington Women’s soccer in Bellingham recently won the Division 2 national championship and went undefeated in the process. The WWU Women’s team will be honored at the Mariners game on April 18th and rightly so.
Not only are there are so many opportunities to be exposed to what collegiate sports are all about, but there is the ability to watch some of the country’s biggest power houses compete right here in WA!
With all of these incredible programs around us, it’s not hard to find opportunities to go out with the family and be a part of a great soccer community. It’s easy to overlook women’s sports teams in Washington because of the Sounders, Seahawks, and Mariners but I would argue that now, more than ever, is the best time to turn our attention to the thriving women’s sports culture we have here. We are witnessing some of the best times with women’s soccer in our country and I truly believe the passion we have for soccer in our State is a big reason why. It would be a shame if we took all of the successes of these teams for granted.
To reinforce this message, I personally have placed a huge emphasis on our girls program and the specific needs of the female athlete at my club, NPSA. We offer our female athletes a strong and balanced development program and have labelled it ‘TITAN XX’.
TITAN XX has been designed with the needs of the female athlete in mind. Soccer, as with many things in life, isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ scenario so we recognized this early and decided to embrace it. The female athlete needs something different than the males and something more specific. This relates not only to the fitness aspect of the game but also the style of coaching required to get the very best out of the players. Providing female-specific injury-prevention education is essential to give the players the best possible chance to reach their full potential. For this, we hired a professional, Dr Ellie Somers of Sisu Physical Therapy, to come in and implement an injury-prevention program that has already made a big impact throughout our girls’ teams. The players have never looked fitter or stronger and we have seen a considerable decrease in the number of injuries to our female players over the course of Spring Season.
When putting together an innovative program like TITAN XX, I couldn’t just rely on my own experience and knowledge of the game. If it was going to be done right, I needed to appoint someone who had the background and credentials to really take things to the next level. I did this in the shape of NSCAA Instructor and ‘A’ Licensed Coach, Erik Oman.
Erik has over 25 years of coaching experience and a resume that is second to none in the State of Washington. Erik has coached at the Division 1 College-level for 17 years working with multiple female teams. In addition, Erik is currently the Technical Director of the PSPL Surf Academy working with the best young female players in the State.
Bringing Erik in as the Director of TITAN XX demonstrates our commitment to providing our female players from U8-U19 the very best program and pathway to the College level.
TITAN XX is about more than just training. It involves giving the girls ownership of their own soccer development and teaching them life skills and values through the game. We have our older girls mentor our younger girls to help them to understand that they need to be role-models and set a good example on and off the field. We have created Instagram and Facebook pages dedicated to our female players and teams to promote their achievements and give them a real sense of community. We also arrange for special guest appearances from top level female athletes/coaches to inspire our girls and show them that everyone started somewhere. Recently, we had the unique opportunity to bring in former US Women’s National Team player, Stephanie Cox, to share her story and some words of wisdom with all our girls and their families.
Stephanie’s presentation made a big impact not only on our players, but on our parents and staff as well. She encouraged all our players to take ownership of their soccer careers and run with it. She asked that our parents and staff focus solely on providing them with the platform to do so. She also talked about the importance of the connections she had made throughout her youth playing days that carried on through her entire professional career. As a youth player, Stephanie had the opportunity to play with one particular player in club, college, and national team soccer. What makes this relationship even more special is that since Stephanie Cox took up a coaching role with the Seattle Reign, she now has the opportunity to work with this player again. The player is none other than Megan Rapinoe. The Stephanie Cox appearance is the first of many events that we will be putting on for or TITAN XX program and what a fantastic start to the series.
As a club that has seen exponential growth in our 4 years of existence, we realized that there are definitive needs for the female soccer player. How could we expect our teams to compete and win consistently if we weren’t providing them with the support they needed? Since the implementation of our Titan XX program, the performances on the field from our female teams have considerably improved. Over the course of this Spring Season, we have a combined record of 39 wins, 4 ties and only 8 losses. We have given our female players a platform to succeed and they have truly bought into it. Their success has reinforced our belief that the female athlete has different needs and they must be met.
The female game, as with the sport of soccer in general in the United States, is still a developing entity but I ask all of you to get behind our female athletes and teams and be proud of the fact that the Pacific NW has some of the best female programs available in the country and they are only getting better!
For more information on how NPSA Titans are approaching the development of female players and teams, check out their TITAN XX program details by clicking HERE.