W League Combine

Saturday, September 26, 2009

TAMPA – Player registration for USL’s W-League Combine began Thursday at 3:00PM ET at Mainsail Suites Hotel in Tampa, Florida. The 76 players attending the event will be housed at the hotel through Sunday, September 27. Each player will play in one, 70-minute match per day with the goalkeepers receiving an extra chance to show off their skills in a goalkeeper specific session scheduled for Saturday.

“The primary objective of the 2009 USL W-League Combine is to provide players that have already graduated from college a platform to showcase their talent for the WPS coaches,” said former professional player and current USL-2 Director Amanda Duffy. “Last season the event was focused on players that had been competing in the W-League not only in 2008, but those who utilized the W-League as their home during the five years women’s professional soccer didn’t exist in the United States.

“We saw a lot of players competing in WPS that had W-League backgrounds,” added Duffy. “From that vantage point we had a lot of success in our first year and obviously we were pleased with the outcome. We hope to have similar success in 2009.”

The existence of an annual event such as the W-League Combine is a huge advantage for players coming out of the W-League and alternate development avenues – an advantage Duffy would have welcomed during the early stages of her career.

USL’s W-League Combine kicked off Saturday’s schedule with seven players competing for the attention of the WPS coaches in goalkeeper specific drills that began at 8:30AM ET at Ed Radice Sports Complex in Tampa, Florida. An hour after the conclusion of the goalkeeper training session, the WPS coaches led a discussion at Mainsail Suites Hotel, south of Ed Radice.

“WPS coaches will be discussing each of their organizations and the benefits associated with playing for their club,” said Melanie Fitzgerald prior to the W-League Combine. “The coaches will also be providing a clear understanding of the process of becoming a professional soccer player and the expectation that comes with that.”

The WPS Meeting was followed by the first of three daily matches, the first of which began at 2:30PM ET. The final match concluded at 8:30PM.

The WPS and W-League coaches ended the day with their daily meeting to discuss the players’ performances.

But while the focus at the Ed Radice Sports Complex was completely about soccer Saturday, for Philisha Lewis, who calls the facility home with her W-League Tampa Bay Hellenic, the game has proven much more for the Jamaican native.

“I didn’t see soccer as something only for enjoyment,” said Lewis. “I see it as getting education, and also giving back to my community in Jamaica. Showing young girls and boys that you can play soccer and get something else out of it other than enjoying it.”

For Lewis, the game has been a path away from what could have been a difficult life in Jamaica, giving her access to opportunities that would not have typically come for her and others in her homeland.

“It helps me in a sense because soccer has shown me a different path from where I was living in Jamaica,” she said. “Because soccer was my main focus, it showed me that there’s other outlets, you don’t have to be - because the neighborhood is bad - you don’t have to stay there and be a bad person. You can do other things.”

Speaking on the task at hand and her experience with the Hellenic, Lewis said, “The W-League [is] much higher in a sense because playing in college you have freshman coming in and they’re pretty young and inexperienced. In the W-League you play with a higher level player in terms of representing their country and also playing already in the college level. They have more experience.”

“It has shown me I have the ability and the work ethic, and also have the skill and desire to play at a higher level. I’m willing to learn and grow as a player,” she added.