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Regional Training Center Locations Announced

Washington Youth Soccer and Sounders FC team up to create new, player-focused development model for Washington state

Washington Youth Soccer ended months of speculation today by announcing that sites have been chosen for the much-anticipated Regional Training Centers, or RTCs, that promise to significantly enhance the development of the state's elite players in the coming years.

Under the new player-development program, a collaborative effort of Washington Youth Soccer and Sounders FC, five Regional Training Centers will be established statewide to help train and develop the state's top premier players in the 1997, 1996 and 1995 age groups.

In order to ensure access to elite development for all outstanding players in Washington state, the training will be funded entirely by Washington Youth Soccer and Sounders FC, and will be spread among seven locations statewide - a Central RTC located at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila; a South RTC in Puyallup; a Southwest RTC in Vancouver, Wash.; a North RTC featuring girls' training in Everett and boys' in Snohomish; and an East/I-90 RTC split among two locations - Yakima and Spokane - with both boys and girls training at each.

Approximately 18-30 players of both genders are expected to be selected for development at each of the five RTCs, with variations based on the population and depth of the player pool in each location. Each group will meet once per week, on Monday nights, to allow the state's top players to train consistently with and against elite talent, and under the tutelage of outstanding coaches.

Tryouts will begin in October, with dates and locations to be announced soon at both wsysa.com and soundersfc.com.

Ever since the announcement of the new development system earlier this year, Washington Youth Soccer has fielded a number of questions as to the structure and purpose of the Regional Training Centers, which will evolve the current State Olympic Development Program (ODP) Training.

Darren Sawatzky, Director of Youth Development for Sounders FC and Washington Youth Soccer, says that it is that very word - "development" - that is key to the entire process.

"I would argue that there is not a lot of development that happens within the ODP program," he says. "It's more of an identification program. We - that is, the Sounders and Washington Youth Soccer - want to turn that system from an identification system into a development system. The only way you can develop players is to play and train them with and against the best, consistently. This is the first step, getting them together once a week to make sure that they are training consistently at a high level."

Sawatzky says that in putting a greater emphasis on player - as opposed to team - development, the Regional Training Centers are meant to enhance Washington's presence on a national level by helping to prepare more Washington Youth Soccer players for success at the regional, national, collegiate and professional levels.

There is no "team" component to the RTCs, Sawatzky says, though the program will provide the player pool for the State ODP team - now called the Sounders FC Youth/ODP - which will travel and compete together, and represent Washington in interstate competitions.

"It's a player-centric endeavor; the goal is to develop the very best players, not necessarily the best teams," he says. "We're tasked by U.S. Soccer with helping to develop the next generation of great players. It's our job as coaches to do as good a job as we can of developing situations where they can foster that ability level. With the Regional Training Centers, it's a paradigm shift, a change in culture, because you're gearing the training towards the player, rather than the team."

It is the hope of Washington Youth Soccer and Sounders FC that by replacing one state ODP pool with multiple, statewide Regional Training Center sites, more players will be given the opportunity to showcase and develop their skills at a high level than ever before. Furthermore, by underwriting the cost of the program so that parents do not have to pay a cent for training (there will still be some fees for travel if players are selected for state travel squads), the state hopes to open up access to elite-level training to players from underserved or economically challenged areas of the state and region.

"The Regional Training Centers really open us up to a larger statewide community," Sawatzky says. "There are some ethnic communities in this state that are operating full leagues and competitions that currently haven't been a part of the identification program. The best thing about this is that it doesn't cost them anything. I read recently about a Somali championship held last month that had about 40,000 people involved. We want to get those kids and those people involved in Washington Youth Soccer and, if they're good enough, to get them playing at the highest level."

Sawatzky says that in addition to today's announcement about the five RTC locations, Washington Youth Soccer members can expect other announcements regarding tryout dates and locations, and RTC coaching staffs, in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, he hopes that parents, coaches and administrators alike will see the benefits of the program and encourage their elite players to participate.

"For the first time, we will be bringing together the best professional, college and club coaches and a vast pool of the state's top players to train together, once a week," Sawatzky continues. "Most coaches, I think, agree that it makes more sense in the long term to make player development, not winning games, our No. 1 priority. By implementing this program and funding its operation, Washington Youth Soccer and Sounders FC are making a commitment to the players in this state. It's a year-long development model."

More information will be announced soon. For answers to any additional questions, visit soundersfc.com, and follow the links to "Youth," then "Youth Teams."

Washington Youth Soccer

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