This month's Player Spotlight shines on a young woman from our 2002/03 Premier team who now has a chance to be recognized by college coaches and even National Team scouts.
Ashley Grant has worked her way up in the Olympic Development Program (ODP) to become one of 40 players in 11 states and one of only two in Tennessee to make the Region III ODP pool.
We are honored to have Ashley and her family as part of Chattanooga FC Academy.
CFCA: When did you start playing soccer and what do you remember most about that first season?
Ashley: I started playing soccer when I was four years old. I remember being the biggest girl out there, and when I would run up the field with the ball, everyone would usually get out of my way.
CFCA: Tell us about your soccer career before CFC Academy and what led you to try out for select soccer?
Ashley: I started out playing soccer for YMCA's recreational program. After a year, I moved to Redoubt and played three seasons there. I then went with my rec team to East Ridge's rec program for a season. The coach of my rec team at the time, Mike Craft, told me about tryouts for the more competitive select program at ERFC, so that is how I ended up at CFC.
CFCA: What’s your most embarrassing moment during practice or during a game?
Ashley: My most embarrassing moment during a game was when I was playing in a U-10 tournament, and I scored a "own goal" trying to pass the ball out of bounds. The most embarrassing part of it was that this game happened to be the championship final, and the score ended up being 2-1 with them getting the win.
CFCA: Sometimes in soccer, things do not go as planned. Think back to a setback in your soccer career. What did you learn about yourself through that experience?
Ashley: One of the biggest setbacks in my soccer career was not making the Region 3 pool my first year of doing ODP. I remember feeling really upset, and being confused on why I didn't make the team. I then remembered what one of my CFC coaches had told me before I had gone to the camp. He said "[i]f you don't make it, you can do one of two things. You can be the victim, and blame your teammates for not making it, or you can be the warrior, and fight your way to the top." I then realized that I wasn't the victim, but I was the warrior. This mentality has helped me through all of my setbacks since then, and helped me realize the type of person I am.
CFCA: What do you do outside of regular team training to improve your game?
Ashley: Outside of regular team training, I often lift weights and go to the supplemental trainings to get more touches on the ball. I also attend many ID elite college camps during the year to challenge myself and improve my game.
CFCA: Who were your CFC Academy coaches along the way?
Ashley: Jeff Badger was my coach at ERFC, later known as CFC, from U-9 to U-12. Laura Novikoff was my coach for U-13. This past year, I was given the opportunity to play for both the U-14 age group under Dean Wilson and Matt Yelton and the U-15 age group under Luidgi Beauzile.
CFCA: How have the coaches at CFC Academy helped you?
Ashley: The coaches at CFC Academy have helped me on and off the pitch by not only helping me with the fundamentals of the game, but by also teaching me how to be a team player and being able to work with girls who have a variety of skill sets.
CFCA: Have you ever had a season where you just didn’t like soccer that much anymore? If so, what helped you out of the slump?
Ashley: I haven't had a season where I didn't like soccer. I truly love the game and I am passionate about it.
CFCA: What are your proudest accomplishments so far in soccer?
Ashley: My proudest accomplishments during my soccer career have been making the GPS varsity soccer team as an 8th grader, and making the Region 3 pool this past summer.
CFCA: When was your first tryout experience with Tennessee ODP and what was that like?
Ashley: I first tried out for Tennessee ODP in the fall of my 7th grade year. I remember being very excited, but nervous for the new experience. It was different from any soccer that I had ever played because it was pulling some of the best soccer players from various clubs in Tennessee, and putting them in a competitive atmosphere together. The game was faster, harder, and more competitive than I had ever experienced before.
CFCA: How did you get picked for the Region III ODP pool?
Ashley: I got picked for the Region 3 ODP pool by attending the Region 3 camp with the Tennessee state team. Everyday at camp, they would pull the top girls from all the states and put them in a mixed training group where we would play each other. There were about 350 girls at the camp, and only about 40 made the final pool for the Region team.
CFCA: What are you goals for soccer in the next 2-3 years?
Ashley: My goals for the next couple years are to continue to bring my game to new levels, and to possibly bring my game to the college level. I also hope to win a Division 1 soccer championship with my CFC team. I also hope to earn a state title with my high school team.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Q - What do you like to do off the soccer field? I like to watch TV, and hang out with my friends.
Q - Favorite subject in school? Math
Q - Favorite food before practice? Hot flavored pork rinds
Q - Favorite pregame music? Imagine Dragons and Kaleo
Q - Favorite soccer player? Abby Wambach
Q - What is something about you most people do not know? I have one kidney.
Q - If Nike asked you to make a soccer quote for their new ad campaign, what would it say? Be a beast. Wear Nike.
US Soccer is divided into four regions; Tennessee is a member of Region III, which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Texas. Each region offers a Region Trials for state association ODP teams in each eligible age group.
The camps are designed to provide a high level of competition and training for participating players. During Region Trials, players who are capable of performing at a higher level of play are identified and selected for Regional and National Pool participation. On average, 40-60 players are selected to the Regional Pool. The Region will pull players from this pool to participate in Inter-Regional events, International trips, and National Camps throughout the year. National Staff Coaches are also in attendance to evaluate players for National Pool potential.
There is exposure to collegiate coaches, as many utilize Region Trials as a recruiting tool. College coaches may be on their respected state staff, region staff, or just visiting camp to observe elite players.
Region III Trials are 5 days long, and takes place in July at University of Montevallo, AL (Girls).