The inaugural weekend of the U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy was marked by much fanfare, including a weeklong buildup that featured USWNT players and an extensive concussion awareness campaign. Even with new rules and new competition, for Reign Academy technical director Kim Calkins the focus remained the same.

“The game is always the same. It’s always the objective to try to play well and score more goals than the other team,” said Calkins. “It wasn’t anything different in that sense, for the players and coaches. As far as the level of competition goes, it’s been good.”

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The weekend saw all four DA teams in action, with the U-14s, U-15s, U-16/17s, and U-18/19s competing against California Thorns FC on Saturday, September 2nd and the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, September 3rd. Overall, the Reign Academy posted a 3–3–2 record through the combined eight games on the weekend.

“We’re in the right competitive level, we deserve to be there, and we have room to grow,” said Calkins. “Saturday was a good start, and demonstrated we deserve to be in this mix, and playing with these players. Technically, we still have to be better to compete with the best of the best. We have to find that balance between athleticism and technique, while developing both.”

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After a weekend off from matches, the Reign Academy staff have had more time to focus on the practice curriculum. Now with a minimum of four training sessions per week, the staff are working on a well-rounded plan to provide the appropriate framework and support to develop the players to their full potential. This was submitted to the Development Academy well before the season started, and serves as a baseline for team’s in their sessions.

“We have training blocks set for each week, that were already set before the season started, so we’re trying to work within the parameters of those,” said Calkins. “It’s just like teaching in school. Having a purpose to what we’re doing is a preferred method.”

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Those “themes” change with each week of practice for the Reign Academy. Examples include movement to receive the ball in midfield, defending from the front, and counter attacking among others. The Reign Academy also takes the time to ensure the players have a break in training learning about proper nutrition and overall fitness.

By having a set course for each week of practice, this allows coaches and players alike to better understand the focus and build on those individual skills.

“The DA provides some accountability and standards that are good to have in place,” said Calkins. “That raises the standard of all level that are in place, so it’s good to have that initiative from U.S. Soccer.”

Up next, the Reign Academy teams head to face Portland Thorns FC on Satuday, September 16th at Delta Park in Portland, Oregon. For all of the Reign Academy’s results and upcoming matches, visit the U.S. Soccer Development Academy site here.