Taelar Errington and Deja Walker have found that playing for the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) has offered them opportunities they never expected. Errington and Walker, both from southern Maryland, competed with over 100 girls from around the state to make the roster for the Maryland US Youth Soccer ODP team.
After winning the US Youth Soccer ODP Region I Championship, Maryland qualified for the US Youth Soccer ODP National Championships held in Frisco, TX. They were joined by California-South, Missouri and North Texas as the winners of the other three regions. Errington and Walker helped Maryland finish third, but have come away from the experience full of optimism, and with a better understanding of the game.
""I didn't like it at first, coming into tryouts, not being sure if you have a spot on the team. But it was a great experience. It was a great group of girls, a great coaching staff and it was a lot of fun,"" Errington said.
For the girls it was about more than just competing for a national championship. Both say the training and experience are something they couldn't receive elsewhere, not to mention the opportunity to travel and learn about soccer in other parts of the county and world. Being a member of US Youth Soccer ODP has allowed Walker to travel to Brazil and Italy where she not only learned about different cultures, but about how soccer is played in other countries, allowing her to improve on the field.
""You get to see soccer played in different flavors around the world,"" said Walker. ""Last year we went to Brazil, they played a lot faster and kicked our butts. Then we went to Italy and we were actually better. We got to see where we stand compared to the rest of the world.""
The director of US Youth Soccer ODP for the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association, Herb Gainey, estimates that up to 85 percent of the players involved in US Youth Soccer ODP receive Division I college scholarships. To play on a state team means you have been chosen to be one of the top players in the state, which means you are surrounded by top players in the state in practice. The next step for Errington and Walker comes in July when US Youth Soccer Region I will select a regional team comprised of girls from every state in the region, and then possibly a chance to play for the U.S. National Team.