2022 has been a year of growth and progress within the Women’s Game. National headlines have been dominated by the achievement of equal pay for the USWNT while locally clubs like Sporting Columbus have been chiseling away at providing more competitive opportunities and pathways for women in the sport.
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OVPL now approaching its 4th season, was developed in part to fill the “void for the region’s soccer clubs by elevating the player pyramid to continue the U23 player’s development pathway” (www.ovplsoccer.com). As a part of the Great Lakes Alliance and US Club Soccer, OVPL has created relationships with local and regional collegiate programs. A central focus to the league is player development and to “provide opportunities for soccer players to aspire to the highest levels”.
“We gained a lot of momentum” stated Head Coach, Marc Miriello when summarizing Sporting Columbus’ first year in the league. “We had a really good balance of players. All collegiate levels and a good mix of D1, D2 and D3.” The Sporting Columbus team brought together players who many of which had previous experience playing together either in Crew Jrs or within Sporting Columbus.
Miriello takes his role of coaching at this level very seriously and aligns his objectives squarely with those of the league itself putting player development at the head. “The players are in it to get ready for their college preseason,” Miriello explained. “ We are here to support the players and prepare them for their college season.” Development looks a little bit different at the U23 level “Part of the process with the U23 team was that we shared a lot tactically. Preparation was more of a collaborative process and this is one of the reasons why we were so successful as a group.” Miriello added “The focus is on preparing them for their college season.”
The 2022 season was exciting not only for the inaugural Sporting Columbus Women’s team but for the entire women’s soccer community. The U23 team played an exhibition friendly against Columbus Eagles providing players with both experience and exposure beyond collegiate and amateur opportunities. Coach Miriello shared that the experience was “Impactful for girls within Sporting Columbus, to see a pathway and have a place to play when they return from college.”
While preparation for their college season was the most urgent developmental objective at hand; preparation for their professional careers was equally as important. Although most players will progress into professional fields of their choice, many will continue in soccer at some level. “Many players have shown interest in coaching,” Miriello shared that he created a Player Assistant Coach role, a captain’s role that included coaching aspects and leading tactically. “I myself notice more women coaches. This is why we have these pathways for women. I have a daughter and I want to see her have all of the opportunities that the men's side has. I feel like this group of girls, coming through they have had people lay pathways that they didn’t have before and they will have many more opportunities because of it.”
2023 will be another critical season for the Sporting Columbus U23 Girls as they build on their 2022 accomplishments. This December tryouts will begin with 3 opportunities for training and assessment. Regarding the tryouts Miriello shared, “We are looking for serious like minded players who want to prepare for their college season.”