I had a wonderful time getting a sneak peek behind the scenes at the University of Virginia. The campus is currently being remodeled to be even more picturesque, and the athletic facilities are impeccable. I owe a large debt of gratitude to Steve Swanson, the women’s program head coach, and his assistants, Ron Raab, Kerry Dziczkaniec and Eilidh Thomson. They are a fantastic group of people who were incredibly generous with their time, and open with their program.
The training session on the day I was on campus focused on creating scoring opportunities in and around the box and it was impeccably planned and executed. Two words come to mind when I think of how best to describe the UVA program: ferocious speed. The women’s speed of running, dribbling and distributing the ball were explosive and fun to watch. They trained at a high level, incorporating deceptive movements along with their speed, and showcasing their comfort on the ball by staying composed in tight spaces and creating opportunities to get out of them. It was phenomenal soccer.
The players were generous but intense competitors. One thing that struck me was the level of accountability to which they held each other. If they made mistakes, they encouraged their teammates to do better and it was evident that the players held each other to an extremely high standard. It was remarkable to see an entire team take ownership of its performance in that way. The team’s commitment to excellence extended outside of standard training hours, and I was told players often head to the equipment room to get balls for additional training sessions between and after their classes. Steve told me after I left that two or three players went out to do additional sessions that afternoon. This shows real devotion to the game and accountability for one’s own development. It is the formula required to get better and stay on top.
My high regard for this team certainly extends to the coaching staff. Steve is a high-quality coach who knows his soccer. Interestingly, his personality seems to be represented in his team: they are warm, considerate and kind but extremely fierce competitors. He has managed to cultivate an environment of high standards, which is no small feat. UVA has a truly impressive women’s soccer program that would be a wonderful choice for any high school player wishing to join a team with impeccable standards and accountability.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.