Changes in the ODP Summer Program Spark New Opportunities for Youth Players
Southern California is well known for its deep talent pool. Cal South’s new program Pro+ is an Elite Player Development program which has removed many of the financial barriers for participation.
Cal South, the official youth and adult state soccer association for Southern California, is proud to announce Cal South Pro+, the next evolution of player identification and development in the United States.
Pro+ combines all of Cal South’s current and future elite player development programs and places them under one integrated structure. With the support of Nike, the areas of emphasis for Pro+ are the identification, development, inclusion and advancement of the top male and female soccer players in Southern California.
John Weinerth, Chief Executive Officer of Cal South said, “We are excited to launch Pro+. This is a strategic shift to expand opportunities for player identification and development and as been several years in the making.”
“We are incredibly proud of our history of success in placing players into the national team programs and winning national championships, but this is about taking a strong program and making it even better,” said Steve Hoffman, Cal South’s Director of Coaching and Player Development. “We want to focus on our youth soccer players in Southern California. Pro+ is about removing the financial barriers and making player development more accessible.
“U.S. Soccer knows Southern California has a deep talent pool, and over the years we have developed more than 30% of the national player pool,” said Weinerth.
“Pro+ is about bringing player development programs to our kids, and not putting our players on planes to go off to other states to get training.”
One of the big changes? Centralizing the funds and the program in the Southern California area. In the past years, Cal South has subsidized approximately $1000 per player to attend the Summer ODP camps. This year, the residential camps will be held locally with coaches and scouts coming to our area. The funds formerly allocated to offset the high cost of travel will be redirected to enhanced player development and to include a broader range of elite players.
“One of the great strengths of the Pro+ program is that it allows us to concentrate our resources on Southern California. Our camps and pools will be held here with U.S. Soccer scouts and coaches committed to scout, evaluate and work with our players at local facilities. This also allows us to expand our professional scouting system, and Pro+ will now involve more players, including those from underserved communities. Players that might have been missed or excluded will now be seen and included,” said Hoffman.
“We are thrilled to announce the launch of the Pro+ enterprise and excited about the prospects it represents for our players,” says Cal South President Johnnie Garza. “Pro+ signifies a strategic shift on the part of Cal South to evolve our Elite Player Identification and Development model for the future.”
Garza continued, “It is a progressive initiative which is adaptive for the ever-changing soccer environment our players and their families are currently facing. It leverages our core strength of geography, populace and infrastructure to enable players in their pursuit of soccer opportunities while mitigating the barriers and burdens associated with travel costs and other expenses.”
Garza states that Pro+ will open doors. “With the adoption of Pro+, Cal South is now positioned to provide diverse soccer opportunities to players not previously accessible to them. Essentially, it is an initiative inspired by our primary customer: the soccer player. Pro+ is part of Cal South’s vision for the future. It will allow us to launch into multiple quadrants and provide practical alternatives and options for our player membership. I am especially excited by the outreach opportunities we envision within our Inclusion component as we advance the program.”
Hoffman added, “Starting with players born in the year 2000 and older, Pro + offers expanded opportunities for identification and development. Right now, Pro+ will offer approximately 20 sessions to this player pool. We will look at extending the program to younger ages in the future.”
“Southern California’s youth soccer clubs are doing a great job developing players. Cal South wants to work with their calendars and accomplish more to identify and train the best players in our area. Pro+ is a significant step in this direction and we are thrilled to be able to bring this opportunity to our players,” said Weinerth.
The first Pro+ event is the Pro+ Invitational Tournament over Memorial Day Weekend. Elite boys and girls age group state teams will be competing.
Here are some of the FAQs on the new Program:
What is Pro+?
Pro+ is the most progressive player identification and development system in the United States, combining all of Cal South’s current and future elite player development initiatives under one integrated structure. The areas of emphasis of the Pro+ system are identification, development, inclusion and advancement of the top male and female soccer players throughout Southern California.
Is the word “Pro” an acronym or about making youth players professionals?
No, the word “Pro” is being used as a preposition, which means “to be in favor of.” Pro+ is in favor of identification, development, inclusion and advancement. Our goal is to help players advance to the next highest level that is available to them, whether it be a youth national team, college or becoming a professional player.
How are these four areas of emphasis applied within the Pro+ system?
- Identification: Cal South believes that players are best identified in their natural game-playing environment by professional scouts. We have developed a high-level scouting system over the past twelve years and are in the process of creating a more robust technology platform to identify and track players as they progress through the system. As more emphasis goes towards our younger age groups, the reach of our scouting and identification efforts under Pro+ will be greatly intensified as our player pools are larger in those younger age groups.
- Development: We contend that player development is directly related to the quality of play, the level of coaching and the best players playing against the best. Therefore, we will always be centrally focused on creating a high-level environment, a quality coaching staff and selecting the greatest development opportunities for the players. Part of development is also learning to become a complete player, which is why we integrate education into the program around fitness, nutrition and sports psychology from some of the top minds involved in sport.
- Inclusion: No barrier should ever stand in the way of opportunities for our players to participate and potentially represent their state or national team program. The elimination of costs and travel and more aggressively utilizing Cal South’s relationships with Nike, U.S. Soccer and local resources removes these barriers and makes the program accessible and inclusive for all players and families.
- Advancement: Early identification and development leads to stronger advancement opportunities. Whether a player is heading for college, pros or national team play, Pro+ will be a key for any path.
Where does the Olympic Development Program (ODP) fit within Pro+?
In the past, Cal South’s elite player identification and development fit under the singular structure of ODP. Pro+ provides a more strategically integrated structure of programs and events that will optimize opportunities for our players. We are proud of the success of our state teams at the US Youth Soccer ODP Championships, and state teams will still compete in these events. However, we have chosen to eliminate more cost-prohibitive events for our players, such as ODP Regional Camp. We have excluded those in favor of crafting more impactful events held locally in Southern California. This allows us to host these events at no cost to the players and allows us to bring the regional and national scouts to the events themselves to work with our players.
What events fall under the Pro+ umbrella?
- U.S. Soccer National Identification events and Youth National Team friendlies
- Cal South Pro+ Invitational
- Cal South Pro+ Summer Training Camp
- US Youth Soccer ODP Championships
- Annual Pro+ State Pool Training
- Nike Elite Player Showcases
- Strategically selected identification and development programming that exposes our players to the highest levels possible
Does Pro+ replace ODP?
It includes ODP and expands the scope and mission of identification, development and advancement while also allowing for a larger number of players to be included in the program. The best way to describe it is not as a replacement for ODP but as the next, more advanced generation.
What are the benefits for participating players?
- An opportunity to train, play and compete against the best players in the country
- An opportunity to work with a high-level coaching staff and supplement their overall development
- U.S. Soccer National Team staff and scouts working onsite at Pro+ camps and events and the opportunity to be identified for U.S. Soccer National Teams
- Opportunities to play against U.S. Soccer Youth National Teams
- No fees for the opportunity to be identified and zero to minimal cost to participate
- No out-of-state travel; all Pro+ events, training and camps are held in Southern California
- Training gear provided by Cal South and Nike
What is the cost to participate in Pro+?
There are no fees for the opportunity to be identified and zero to minimal cost to players for participation in the program. This is made possible due to the strategic shift towards hosting high-level identification and development events locally in Southern California. It is also due to the generous commitment of Nike who supplies all athletic apparel to the Pro+ program. Nike’s support of the Pro+ program and their commitment to the elite player base of Southern California is very significant.
What age groups does Pro+ focus on?
Pro+ features the following age groups for both boys and girls: U12, U13, U14, U15, U16 and U17.
Does Pro+ create significant additional demands on the calendar of an elite player?
No. The annual soccer calendar for the elite player is too congested as it is. Our goal was to eliminate conflicts where possible. All Pro+ events and training occurs during existing windows on the calendar that were already being used for State, Regional and National ODP. In fact, by removing much of the out-of-state travel and keeping our kids local, we have actually softened the calendar impact.
Can I still participate with my club team?
Absolutely. Clubs have the largest impact on day-to-day player development and we work with all of our Affiliate Member clubs to alleviate conflicts as much as possible.
I’m on a Cal South ODP pool/team. Will I have to go through a new process to get in the State Pro+ pool?
No. Players who were identified and named under the Cal South ODP program remain in their existing pools and teams.
How do I get scouted to be identified for Cal South Pro+?
Cal South utilizes a comprehensive scouting system in which players are identified in a natural game-playing environment for identification. The process starts with a player recommendation which can be made by a club’s technical directors, directors of coaching, team coaches and even opposing club coaches who can recommend players through our online Player Recommendation Form. Individual players that are recommended this way will be scouted in league play from September through December and at the State Cup and National Cup competitions.
What are the steps in the process in the event you are selected for participation?
- Recommendation / Identification: Club coach recommendation followed by a Cal South scout being assigned to evaluate the player in a game environment.
- Evaluation / Scouting: Player is scouted and evaluated for potential inclusion.
- Cal South Pro+ Pool Selection: Cal South coaching and scouting staff will select players to be part of the State Player Pools.
- Cal South Pro+ Pool Training: Southern California’s best players train together in age-based player pools.
- Cal South Pro+ State Team Selection: The top 22 players in each age group are selected to represent Cal South in U.S. Soccer National Identification events.
Why make this change?
All progressive programs change as the environment around them changes. We are extremely proud of our accomplishments and success rate of consistently getting our players through to the National Team programs, but locking into a single track for player identification and development no longer makes sense for Cal South.
We wanted to take a very strong existing program and make it better. Part of that was eliminating the existing barriers to participation such as costs and travel. U.S. Soccer has also made some significant changes to their approach on youth player development over the past several years, so it was important that we positioned Pro+ to be in alignment with that. Cal South is a very important market for the U.S. Soccer Federation and these changes will help us both meet our mutual goals.
To learn more about Cal South Pro+, click here.
The California State Soccer Association – South (Cal South) is a 501c(3) California public benefit corporation and is the official youth and adult state soccer association of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer. Cal South represents over 240 Member Leagues and Clubs comprising our membership of more than 180,000 registered players, coaches, referees and league administrators. The organization, with a service area that extends from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, provides rewarding recreational and competitive opportunities for players of all ages, genders and skill levels.