USWNT's April Heinrichs to Present Women's Soccer State of the Union at 2013 Convention
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team program brought home two world championships in 2012, taking home the London Olympic gold medal and capturing the U20 world championship in Japan.
By almost anyone’s standards that would be good enough. But when you were the captain for the winners of the first-ever Women’s World Cup, held in 1991, you are not just anyone.
You are one of the greatest women’s soccer players of all time. You are one of the original pioneers for women’s soccer worldwide. You are April Heinrichs, the Technical Director of the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team.
And she believes US soccer must continue to aspire to be the best in the world if it wants to stay there.
“We are all very proud of the way our players and coaches performed in 2012,” said Heinrichs, who coached the US women to the 2004 Olympic gold medal. “2012 was an amazing year, one that inspired so many fans, and hopefully, so many future US women’s soccer players. It is worth celebrating and reflecting on the teamwork our US teams demonstrated this year. And, it’s a tremendous statement of the ability of our nationalteam program to consistently qualify for and win world championships.
“Amazingly, one of the best parts of the process, including the reflection, is knowing that we can improve, that we need to improve, and it starts at a very young age.”
Perhaps, even more amazing for NSCAA members, is the fact that Heinrichs will give a behind-the-curtains look at the USWNT program as part of three critical lectures at the 2013 NSCAA Convention in Indianapolis.
Here’s a snapshot of what she will share:
Thursday, Jan. 17 at 2:15 p.m. – with US Women’s National Team Development Director Jill Ellis, “The Youth Game: Practical Applications of Lessons Learned from our Women’s National Team and, our U20 and U17 Women’s National Teams for College, Club and High School Coaches”
Saturday, Jan. 19 12:45 p.m. – with Dr. Matt Robinson, "The Profile of a US Women’s Youth National Team Player: Identifying Predictive Personal, Social and Player Development Variables and what does it mean for Coaches, Directors, and Parents?"
Saturday, Jan. 19 2 p.m. – featuring US Women’s U20 National Team Steve Swanson, “U20 Women’s National Team’s Journey through to the U20 FIFA Women’s World Cup Championship.” Click here for more on this session.
Heinrichs doesn’t hesitate to get right into every one of the sessions.
“For our Thursday session, Jill Ellis and I plan to discuss some urgent and some long-term issues for women’s soccer in this country.
“For the long-term, we really want to take a deep look at Asian women’s football and how they are playing with a higher level of technical and tactical sophistication than the US," she continued. "Their tactical understanding individually and in small groups is outstanding. Japan and North Korea are unbelievable technically, and a lot of coaches in our country are largely unaware of what they are doing. We hope to share that at the Convention.
“We know it will take time and patience and we are ready to share the lessons learned in 2012 at all levels. That is what is great about the Convention, it allows us to present to our community, engage and challenge each other, and that will make us stronger.”
Heinrichs also has a mission statement for women who have been a part of the collegiate and professional game.
“There are more than 100,000 women out there who have played collegiate soccer in the past 20 years that we are challenging to step up and coach our young soccer players,” Heinrichs said. “They would inspire young people. They don’t have to have an education degree, but they know how to show young players how to work with their feet. It’s so important to have coaches that can actually demonstrate to young players – 4, 5, and 6-year olds – how to play with the ball at their feet. It’s been 30-plus years since Title IX, let’s find those former collegiate, professional and women’s national team players and encourage them to give back to the game by coaching our youngest players with feet and a passion for the game.”
For her shorter-term goals, Heinrichs wants to talk about teaching our younger players specific roles with each position they play.
“We are finding that we often have to convert players as they come up to the national team program. We need to do a better job as coaches in teaching the tactics of each position and having players understand the role of each position within a team. We are good at doing that when we focus on it, unfortunately, our coaches are focused on winning, even at a young age, and positional understanding is sometimes lost.”
And, while she supports the college game for women’s soccer, she is hoping the substitution rules can be updated to be more in line with the international game.
“We are the only country in the world that allows more than seven substitutions,” Heinrichs mentions, coming from someone who also coached women’s college soccer at Princeton, Maryland and Virginia. “College soccer is going down a path that is further away from the international game…even club soccer in America is more in line with the world game. Some college teams are making 15-25 substitutions per game.
“This doesn’t allow players to solve problems themselves. When players struggle at the collegiate level, they simply get pulled out, and that can slow down the tactical awareness you need when you get to the next level. I realize we can not entirely change the rules in college soccer; however, working toward some moderation is a good first step.”
Just before Steve Swanson takes the stage on Saturday to talk about the amazing story of the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team, Heinrichs is excited about sharing – for the first-time – some data that has been collected over the past 18 months by Dr. Matt Robinson, a professor from the University of Delaware.
“Dr. Robinson and I will show results of a comprehensive study we have done on the profile of the top female players our country is producing, how tall are they, where do they come from, what part of their environment is unique, what’s their birth order within their family, and what we can learn from their profile,” Heinrichs previews. “We will break down the difference in their birth month, impact of height, the hot pockets for development and so much more.
“In fact, we are still dissecting all of the information and the Convention will be the first time we share it in a community setting. It is fascinating information.”
Prepare to be fascinated yet again by April Heinrichs, one of the original faces of US women’s soccer. And, for the complete story on women’s soccer in this country and beyond, plan to catch all three of these sessions at the 2013 NSCAA Convention in Indianapolis.