(Read about Sophia's amazing experience in her own words and view her trip photo gallery below)
Standing on the same pitch where the US Women’s National Soccer Team had just won the World Cup weeks earlier was incredibly inspirational.
Thirty-two female soccer players from the 2003/2004 age group were selected from various Adidas Soccer Clubs to take part in this prestigious program. The program included daily training, competitive matches, professional coaching as well as a tour of and taking in the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, the stadium where the US Women’s Team had just won their fourth World Cup Title.
My experience began on August 17, 2019 as I flew from Chicago to New York to meet the rest of my teammates and coaching staff who would be part of the Generation Adidas International select program. Upon meeting these fellow athletes I immediately felt excitement of what the days ahead would hold for us competitively. As we boarded the plane for our first flight to Paris, before the final leg to Lyon, we all were chatting away like we had been friends for years instead of the strangers we were just moments ago. This camaraderie would last the entire trip.
My first training session was met with some trepidation. How would I compare to these other players? How much could I take in and absorb to become a better player? I had so many thoughts floating around my brain, but once I stepped onto the pitch at the Olympique Lyonnais Academy Complex all of my thoughts melted away. My soccer ball was an old friend, one I felt comfortable with, and I was there to compete and learn and I was excited to do so.
The training complex featured grass and turf fields. The training session consisted of technical skills and techniques, reading the game, passing and possession training and the staff coaching stressing the importance of fitness and practice. We took a tour of the incredible facilities that was almost a mini-university with classrooms, a medical center, dormitories, kitchens and offices. Olympique Lyonnais is a fourteen time Women’s Champion of France, as well as a three time Women’s Champion League title winner. Touring the complex, it’s apparent that in addition to the hard work and dedication that their players put into their game, they have an incredible support system in the coaches, training and complex staff.
My second training session that same day incorporated the skill work of the earlier morning in various scrimmages and shooting sessions. My teammates were incredibly vocal and it made the process of learning to gel as a team a bit easier, as we were able to broadcast our intentions, which was important because we all have different playing styles and skill levels.
The French style of play stresses “simplicity,” play simple and play cleanly. The runs a player makes are with purpose, and the passes you make to a player and done with forethought and intention. This reduces needless running, conserves the energy of the players, allows for clean passing lanes and results in the team holding the majority of the possession of the ball.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the kits we received from Adidas. Adidas provided each Generation Adidas athlete with new uniforms, jerseys, shorts, socks, training bags and new Adidas cleats. It was like a soccer Christmas in August! Several times a few of the Lyon staff and players admired our kits and we were told how “smart” we looked. Adidas also asked for feedback from the players on how the kits felt when we played in them, what we liked and what we would change. I couldn’t believe that Adidas actually was talking to the athletes about their products and it was all in an effort to make their products the best they could be, so the players could focus on their game. It really impressed me. I felt like in addition to the incredible training I was getting, I was also getting a peek into how the competitive sporting goods field works. There is a reason that Adidas is as successful as it is.
Olympique Lyonnais Women’s Team is another successful team and after watching their intense training session it is easy to see where their success stems from. Lyonnais train the same way they play, intense and 110%. Perhaps that is why Lyonnais Right-Back Lucy Bronze, who is also a member of the England National Team, was awarded 2019 PFA Women’s Player of the Year and the 2019 UEFA Women’s Player of the Year. Being able to watch her in action was very inspirational and meeting her was one of the highlights of my trip.
Watching the Lyonnais Women play against Olympique Marseille was electrifying. The game was sold out, and the crowd chanted and clapped the entire match. Lyonnais made quick work, winning 6-0. Their quick, efficient style of play, the ease in which they communicated with each other and the apparent fitness of the entire team was definitely on display during this match.
Watching Olympique Lyonnais play was certainly inspirational during our upcoming match against the U19 Olympique Lyonnais team. The game was played in the morning with both teams hungry for a win. Coach decided to put me in as a starting Right-Back, switching to Center-Mid and then later Forward. The match got off to a quick start. It was tough and hard fought the entire game and with minutes left we were looking at a 2-2 draw. Lyonnais utilized their technical ability and fresher legs and fired off a quick 1-2 punch of goals and the game would end 4-2. It certainly was a learning experience for me and the rest of the team.
I am incredibly grateful and blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to represent MKSC Academy as part of the Generation Adidas International and the Olympique Lyonnais Select training program. Thank you to Generation Adidas International, Olympique Lyonnais Coaching Staff, Coach Sonia Bonpast, MKSC and especially the Coaching Staff, my teammates at MKSC and Homestead High School (as well as Coach Denk), and my friends and family. I could not have been a part of this amazing experience without all of you.