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CRYSC Next Wave Abroad

Published on: May 30, 2024
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NEXT WAVE ABROAD THIS SPRING & BEYOND!

In soccer, the journey is not just about the games played on the field but also the experiences, connections, and growth that happen off the pitch. Empowering the next generation of players, coaches, and leaders can be as simple as creating a space to enjoy connections while providing experiences.

Next Wave, an initiative provided by CRYSC, is always looking for ways to highlight women’s empowerment in the club and community. The recent trip to England exemplifies this commitment. Next Wave wanted to highlight the experiences of the staff members who accompanied the team and showcase the powerful message that young girls can aspire to leadership roles in the sport they love.

Under the direction of Next Wave ally Jeff Oleck, Director of International Partnerships, the club has created space for three all-girls trips (U12G in 2023, U14G in 2023, and U12G in 2024) over the last year. In addition, seven out of the twelve staff members on these trips have been women. These trips show the leverage of our club resources to intentionally create space for young girls to travel, compete, and connect with other players and coaches from different regions.

Based on the feedback received, the England trip was an unforgettable journey that will continue to inspire and motivate for years to come. Wembley Stadium was a top experience for all involved. With its rich history and aura, Wembley Stadium ignited passion and motivation among all the participants. It symbolized the culmination of love and dedication in soccer, leaving a lasting impression on players and staff alike.

  • Erin Wall, known for her role as the 8u-10u Administrator for the South and Central regions, found immense joy in witnessing the players’ excitement and growth throughout the trip.
  • Regan Brown, the Chief Administrative Officer for Rapids Youth Soccer, appreciated the opportunity to blend family experiences with soccer immersion during the trip.
  • Nicole Nickerson, Head Coach of the 2012G Select South and assistant coach for the 2010G ECRL South, valued the cultural exchange and camaraderie among players and staff.
  • Lexi Rudolph, the Director of Camp Operations and Community Outreach in the Central Region, emphasized the transformative power of international experiences in shaping young athletes’ perspectives.
  • Will Juniper, the Communication and Content Manager and Next Wave ally, captured the essence of the journey through storytelling and visuals, allowing him to showcase the trip’s impact on players and staff.

This diverse international soccer experience exemplifies the power of opportunity, unity, diversity, and shared passion in shaping memorable and impactful journeys and stories.

If you would like to share your experience about how the club empowers women at every level, please email Kathryn Balogun, Director of Next Wave, at [email protected].

NEXT WAVE ENGLAND STAFF Q&A!

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Erin Wall

  • What is your role at the Rapids Youth Soccer?
    • My role in the club is 8u-10U Administrator for South and Central regions.
      When asked if I would be interested in going on this trip and seeing first thing it was an all female team and staff, I was super pumped. I was excited to get the chance to provide a fun on field experience for the players in an environment that supports the game in an amazing way. I knew immediately the support that would surround all of us would be so uplifting and positive.
  • Why did you want to go on this all-girls international trip?
    • I provide a behind-the-scenes support system for our female players and staff, as I am not currently coaching. When I did coach in the Fall, I became a mentor to a group of girls, where I got the opportunity to provide a fun and challenging experience and hopefully continue to develop their love of the game.
  • What role do you play as a mentor for girls?
    • As a female who grew up playing against boys and who was mostly bigger/stronger than most of the girls, I take pride in allowing players to feel confident and comfortable being strong athletes and in allowing them to grow into who they are.
  • What does it mean to you to be part of the predominantly women’s staff?
    • Working with an all-female staff was so empowering and fun. To laugh and share this experience with females who have the same love of the game and what we do was so inspiring. It was a comfortable environment where we all felt free to share coaching advice, input, and stories and have a bunch of fun.
  • What was your highlight of the trip?
    • I think the highlight of my trip was the stadium tour at Wembley. I was so proud to walk into a place that has held so much history and so many magical moments. When I walked into the locker room where all the England jerseys were hanging, I got emotional and could almost feel the love pouring from each player as they waited patiently for their major match to start. It was a beautiful moment to soak in for sure.
  • Anything else you would like to share about the trip and experience?
    • A really fun thing to see on this trip was the players from different regions and teams coming together and playing a game they all love. Seeing the connections they built made me smile, and I hope this bond stays with them for a long time. Watching them laugh and joke with the England girls after they played each game was fun, too. The battle on the field was left on the field, and they were able to have a laugh afterward about overall life. Super cool.

Regan Brown

  • What is your role at the Rapids Youth Soccer?
    • I am the Chief Administrative Officer for Rapids Youth Soccer.
  • Why did you want to go on this all-girls international trip?
    • I had not participated in our international program much and wanted to gain a better understanding of this program. Additionally, my niece along with my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew were a part of the trip which offered a great opportunity to create a remarkable work and family experience. The fact that it was a more female-focused group was the cherry on top as I can remember by early competitive playing days and would have killed for an opportunity like this.
  • What role do you play as a mentor for girls?
    • I do not currently play a large role in mentoring girls.
  • What does it mean to you to be part of the predominantly women’s staff?
    • It was a fantastic bonding experience for the women staff across different regions and levels of the club. I learned a ton about my coworkers and found renewed energy in their passion and technical expertise for the game. I am grateful for the chance to share experiences, as well as problem solve, with such a great group.
  • What was your highlight of the trip?
    • The highlight for me was watching the girls walk out of the tunnel in Wembley. Such a historic place to create a lifelong memory for these players.
  • Anything else you would like to share about the trip and experience?
    • The international program offers a unique opportunity for players to go outside of their comfort zones, and it was really cool to see who embraced that on and off the pitch.

Nicole Nickerson

  • What is your role at the Rapids Youth Soccer?
    • Head coach of the 2012G Select South and assistant coach 2010G ECRL South.
  • Why did you want to go on this all-girls international trip?
    • I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to see and experience the culture of another country both in terms of soccer and outside of soccer.
  • What role do you play as a mentor for girls?
    • I hope to be a positive role model on and off the field.
  • What does it mean to you to be part of the predominantly women’s staff?
    • I thought it was amazing. The staff was phenomenal and it was a great opportunity for me to learn from some great coaches.
  • What was your highlight of the trip?
    • I loved being able to see both the men’s Fulham vs Tottenham and the women’s Tottenham vs Leicester City match. They both had great atmospheres. Being able to tour Wembley Stadium and see the locker rooms with the England national team jerseys hung up was also amazing.

Lexi Rudolph

  • What is your role at the Rapids Youth Soccer?
    • I am the Director of Camp Operations and Community Outreach in the Central Region. I also coach in the South region in the ECRL Girls program (2009 girls asst coach), and I am the director of goalkeeping for the futsal program.
  • Why did you want to go on this all-girls international trip?
    • I had heard good things about the previous international trips. I was also excited about the opportunity to travel to England as I had never been there. The opportunity to coach young girls in the Rapids organization was also a bonus.
  • What role do you play as a mentor for girls?
    • During the trip the other coaches and I focused on some team bonding and resiliency during our matches and on bus rides in between events.
  • What does it mean to you to be part of the predominantly women’s staff?
    • Being part of this staff was a great opportunity to learn more about the other females in the organization and make connections that will last beyond this trip! It was also a great chance for the younger female athletes to see female coaches and learn from us.
  • What was your highlight of the trip?
    • The highlight of the trip was the team’s improvement and their performance in the 7v7 tournament.

Will Juniper

  • What is your role at the Rapids Youth Soccer?
    • Communication and Content Manager – responsible for all creative marketing within the club, which includes graphic design, photography, social media, and visual content on our website.
  • Why did you want to go on this all-girls international trip?
    • When choosing the trip, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about gender, but being able to experience and cover sports on the women’s side while the sport is heavily male-dominated was a big bonus for me.
  • What role do you play as a mentor for girls?
    • Again, not a gender-oriented answer, but my biggest goal at the club is to make all of our athletes feel seen and heard. While our coaches act as mentors for character and skill development, it is ultimately my job to showcase this development to a public-facing audience. Being a support system is conveyed in many forms in my role, such as capturing successful moments in girls’ sports or helping our girls get noticed by college coaches, to name a few examples.
  • What does it mean to you to be part of the predominantly women’s staff?
    • It was an honor to be on this trip with our amazing women’s staff. Seeing our women’s coaches interact with our girls was inspiring. Our women’s staff on this trip are role models, and it was great to see the girls look up to them. I was thrilled to be able to capture these moments that hopefully will last a lifetime.
  • What was your highlight of the trip?
    • Without a doubt, coordinating photo-ops with the girls of potential goal celebrations during a 7v7 friendly in London. Some of the girls approached me about what they thought would make a good photo if they scored a goal. Bouncing ideas off each other was hilarious!

Jeff Oleck

  • What is your role at the Rapids Youth Soccer?
    • Elite Regional Manager and Director of International Partnerships.
  • How did the idea of girls only international trip come about? How many have you done?
    • Within the CRYSC International program, we offer club-wide composite age-group trips every year. What that means is that competitive level players at any given age group, from U12 to U19, can sign up for the international trip that is offered every year. These trips include playing friendly games against international opposition, a pro-clinic with a top academy/club coach in the area, stadium tours, pro games, and other touristic activities. We separate our trips based on gender in order to field single-gender friendly rosters to play against our foreign counterparts. This is the 2nd full year of the club-wide trips – the first group of HS boys traveled to Germany in January 2023. As director of the program, I have been on 8 of the trips in the past 2+ years. As a program, we have led 10 trips to countries and we have one more group traveling to Germany & Netherlands this summer!
  • Have they always had predominantly women staff tied with them?
    • There is an intentional effort to open up the staffing opportunities for both men and women in our club, and that extends to non-technical staff as well. We have taken full-time technical staff, team coaches, administrators, our Director of Mental Performance, our marketing and communications staff, and even staff accountants. Everyone has a role on these trips whether it is on or off the field. I’m pleased to say that of the three all-girls trips we have taken (U12G in 2023, U14G in 2023, and U12G in 2024) we have taken, 7 out of the 12 staff members have been women.
  • What do you see as the benefits to these events?
    • The goal of these trips is to provide a platform for holistic personal growth while viewing the world through a soccer lens. The “beautiful game” is a unifier and can bring people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, socio-economic realities, and geographic regions together in a really unique and special way. We hope that these trips give players, families, and staff a wonderful experience while also opening up their perspective to a world outside of their own day-to-day environment.
  • What was your highlight of the trip?
    • Without a doubt, coordinating photo-ops with the girls of potential goal celebrations during a 7v7 friendly in London. Some of the girls approached me about what they thought would make a good photo if they scored a goal. Bouncing ideas off each other was hilarious!
  • Are there any changes you prepare for when planning international trips based on gender?
    • The work we do on the preparation side is largely related to the soccer content and trying to find the best match-up in terms of the opposition. Since it’s difficult to make comparisons, for example there’s no CSA P3 level in England, we make sure our players are aware of the playing style of the opponent, the potential challenges, and the opportunities in front of them. We are often met by tough competition, and on the girls side it tends to be more physically aggressive then they are used to here in Colorado – so that places new and different challenges on the players and coaches. But, ultimately, it’s about the opportunity to play and learn from their counterparts on the other side of the globe. As one of our coaches on our March trips told me, “They won’t think about results, they’ll remember the experience.”
  • What role do you play as a mentor for girls and a support for women in sport?
    • An advocate, and ambassador, and a supporter. We make a special effort on our girls trips to expose the players to high level professional women’s soccer (i.e. the Women’s Super League in England) and to coaches who specialize in working with female athletes. I want them to see what girls/women can achieve in this sport and also present role models/idols to them so they can see themselves in these incredible athletes. Outside of CRYSC, I also work with a non-profit called Fields of Dreams Uganda (FoDU) which seeks to empower the vulnerable children of Uganda through education and soccer. Through FoDU, I support girls empowerment projects including provided hygiene kits, building changing rooms, and fostering an environment where the young girls/women of Uganda can realize their dreams and have hope for the future.
  • What was your highlight of the trip?
    • Hard to say – there were a lot of memorable moments in the time I spent with our U12G group in England. I’d have to say that one that will stick with me is after our first friendly match against Richmond Park, the English players were asking their coach and me when they can travel to Colorado to visit us! After spending a couple hours on the pitch together, they were excited and intrigued enough to want to come see our environment and learn more about how we do things in the US and in Colorado! We’d love to open our doors to visitors like that in the future and when I see that motivation, I know it’s a possibility.
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