Volume 74, Number 36 | January 12 - 18, 2005

Sports

Coach Amanda Vandervort at soccer clinic at Our Lady of Hope School in Queens

They got game: Girls’ soccer in the city is growing

By Judith Stiles

“Playing soccer all year long? It’s a lot better than hanging out at the mini mart every Friday like her older sister does,” lamented a soccer mom, who dutifully stood on the sidelines, watching her daughter learn some fast footwork and feinting from Coach Clive Stultz of the Downtown United Soccer Club. “Yeah, I wish I was at the movies right now, but this is worth it. Hopefully my second daughter will stick with soccer,” she added.

Amanda Vandervort, the head coach of women’s soccer at New York University, four coaches from Downtown United, plus coach April Bottman of the Loisada Club gave up their Friday night to host a free soccer clinic at Our Lady of Hope School in Queens for over 70 girls ages 7-10. This was part of the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League’s Girls’ soccer Development Program, which has recently brought free soccer clinics to young girls in the nooks and crannies of the five boroughs to introduce them to the game of soccer. Coach Clive Stultz of Downtown United led the clinic, and at a statuesque 6 ft. 4 in. he towered over the little girls, deftly moving the almost six dozen young chatterboxes from activity to activity with his booming friendly voice. All the DUSC coaches in attendance hold coaching licenses and with their professional expertise, they were able to create a good mix of introducing technique and tactics along with a high quotient of fun.

Coach Vandervort of N.Y.U. started the evening describing the array of athletic opportunities available to young girls today, noting that she herself did not start playing soccer until she was 14 years old. She told the girls about the women who played on the U.S. National Team and their story of winning the gold medal in the Olympics in 2004.

Then in an inventive, age-appropriate game, she taught them how to remember the names of the players on the starting lineup. “When you think of the goalie, think of her scurrying back and forth in the net, yes, that’s right, her name is Brianna Scurry!”

Coach Vandervort recounted how she herself became a goalie, which in part led her to the exciting job of coaching a women’s college team at N.Y.U. Next, Coach Stultz moved the girls into six groups where they learned about passing, sprinting, stretching and ball control, before concluding the evening with small-sided games. When Stultz blew the whistle at 8 p.m. to end the games, nobody wanted to leave the gym and go home.

Previously Coach Stultz hosted clinics in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but Queens was an especially sentimental journey for him. “As a teenager, I played for the local club in this neighborhood, B. W. Gottschee, and now years later, I am back introducing soccer in the same neighborhood,” he noted with pride. “Hopefully, some of these girls will form a travel team and join B.W. Gottschee,” he added.

Girls’ soccer has come a long way in the five boroughs and especially at Downtown United. In 2003 at DUSC, the recreational teams were growing so fast they added a third division in 2004. While there were only four girls’ travel teams in the entire league seven years ago, now there are over 15 girls’ teams and the league is expecting an additional four teams this spring. Another big change is that fewer girls are leaving the boroughs to play in Long Island, the mecca of girls’ soccer, where traditionally the best teams could be found. The very first C.J.S.L. inter-borough Girls Select Team was formed in 2000, resulting in many games lost to the powerhouse Long Island teams. However, they trained hard for four years, and in the summer of 2004, they morphed into a Super-Y League team that handily beat all those supposedly great Long Island teams (such as the Long Island Lady Riders) and won the metro region with 11 wins and one loss, under Coach Tom Giovatto.

Out of this group and another New York City-based Super-Y team, seven girls have been selected to go to an Olympic development program in Florida this month to be considered to play on the national team, just as Brianna Scurry did years ago from her hometown in Dayton, Minnesota. When the young girls at the clinic at Our Lady of Hope heard about this, little Jessica’s hand shot up in the Q & A as she emphatically declared, “I have been playing soccer since I was 2! Maybe someday I will play on the National Team!”

Soccer coaches, especially Coach Stultz, have a good eye for spotting potential in players and an uncanny ability to recognize potential within 5 minutes of watching large groups of kids. Coach Vandervort travels the country looking at youth players trying to spot talent, looking for girls who might wind up on her N.Y.U. women’s team. However, this particular Friday night in Queens, she was off duty, not scouting players, but rather reveling in the fact that in 2005 there are so many more soccer opportunities for young girls in the five boroughs. Vandervort believes natural athletic ability will take a girl far, but it is just as important to find disciplined hard-working athletes for any team. She only touched on these issues with the 10-year-old girls, and chose not to address the rigors of preparing to play soccer in college. This night was for fun and, besides, N.Y.U. is not accepting Jessica’s application until 2013, which hopefully allows for at least a few hundred games of fun before that.

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