Loudoun Soccer will host more than 1,000 children ranging from age 8 to 18 at its annual tryouts for its travel soccer program next month, the latest sign of the astonishing advances in quality and competitiveness which has made the Northern Va. outfit one of the fastest-growing youth soccer clubs in the Mid-Atlantic region.
“Currently we have 66 travel teams in the club, and we’re expecting that’s going to expand up to about 75 in the fall season, which we’re excited about,” said Mark Ryan, Loudoun’s Director of Travel, in a press release. “In the younger age groups, we have four travel teams in each age group, which is an unprecedented number for us, and really, for any club in the region.”
Long seen as a “sleeping giant” among the area’s soccer community, Loudoun already possesses the largest recreational league in Virginia and technical director Daryl Gee has integrated and advanced the travel program since taking over the role some 18 months ago. Under Gee, the club has recruited additional quality coaches, many of whom hold “A” Licenses from the U.S. Soccer Federation, enhanced already in place programs and added new developmental skills programs. He also adapted a holistic model designed to guide club members from Under-8 level all the way through to college placement.
“The addition of a full technical staff including directors of U7/U8 Developmental Academy, goalkeeping, U9/U12 girls development, U9/U12 boys development and college placement allows us to fully support the player development needs of our volunteer and professional coaches, players and technical programs,” Gee explained.
These moves have resulted in improved results on the field – three Loudoun teams have advanced to the semifinal stages of this spring’s Virginia State Cup, an all-time high – and a steady influx of players from Loudoun’s rec program as well as from other travel clubs. The number of participants in the Loudoun travel program has grown by 33 percent in the past year alone.
“It’s all coming together now,” said Gee. “I can honestly say we’ve reached our goal, and that is to function as one club, with one mission. We’re doing the right things at Loudoun Soccer, and players want to be a part of it. We’ve had the full support and leadership from our Board of Directors in implementing these initiatives.”
To help handle the expansion, in August the club is set to debut its Loudoun Soccer Park, a new facility on Sycolin Road in Leesburg comprised of two full-size, floodlit artificial-turf fields, a smaller, natural-grass practice field and the club’s future headquarters.
“Another major reason for the recent success of our travel program is the hard work, dedication and leadership of our Travel Director Mark Ryan,” said Gee.
“The expansion in the club is right in terms of numbers of players and teams, and we’re also expanding our facilities to handle the additional influx of players that we’re expecting over the next 12 months, going all the way up to the next five to 10 years,” explained Ryan.
Taking place primarily at Phillip Bolen Park in Leesburg, with some sessions at Byrne’s Ridge Park in Aldie, Va., the tryouts will take place from June 4-16, with sessions organized according to gender and age group. Loudoun requires all their current players to take part in this process in order to track each child’s progress and ensure that all are placed in the appropriate developmental environment.
Tryouts are free of charge, open to all and participants receive a T-shirt.
This year’s tryouts will also give players, parents and coaches the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Loudoun Soccer Park, which is adjacent to Bolen Park, in its final stages of construction.
“A centralized tryouts location helps people see the new facility that we will have and also places all our technical staff and coaches in one place, where everyone can assist with the tryout process and handle the number of kids that we’re expecting,” noted Ryan. “We run this process in the most organized way possible, so that we can evaluate all players in a good environment that gives them the best chance to show what they can do.”
Training for the fall 2012 season begins in late July and early August, with match play kicking off in September. Loudoun teams compete in the Virginia Club Champions League (VCCL), Washington Area Girls Soccer League (WAGS), National Capital Area Soccer League (NCSL) and the Old Dominion Soccer League (ODSL).