So much competition, so few spots

By David Bayer

The WPS Draft is just days away … four rounds and only 24 names to be called. Sounds pretty easy, right? Wrong. I spoke to two of the parties  involved, Jim Gabarra, head coach of Sky Blue FC, and Andy Crossley, general manager of the Boston Breakers. Both gave me insight into how their teams have prepared for Jan. 14 and beyond.

In the WPS, the coaching staff and scouting system are one in the same. Gabarra and his assistant, Rick Stainton for Sky Blue FC, and Tony DiCicco and his assistant, Lisa Cole, for Boston, are constantly evaluating players. They rely heavily on their relationships with college coaches to receive developmental information. Gabarra mentioned that opinions start forming when players are in their freshmen and sophomore years. Progress reports are kept. The early interest is not brought to the players’ attention though as that might cause an unfair distraction. A close eye is also kept on the youth national teams.

In order to be included in the draft, a player must be at least 18 years old as of March 1, and either have completed or forfeited her NCAA eligibility. It’s then up to the individual to make sure that she joins the Interested Players List, a simple form (name, address, etc.) sent into the league. From there,
you’re fair game for selection. Gabarra, Crossley, and the other four teams will have close to 900 players to choose from the List.

Even with salaries not being, shall we say “lucrative,” there is huge interest in joining the league. Gabarra and Crossley will both come into the draft with a list of players they like. They will then balance their team’s needs, along with the talent, personality, and character of the young women available when it is their turn to pick. Gabarra explained that character is very important in determining how long a player might stay in a professional league, or if they will make it at all. “Team needs” are obviously a big factor. Crossley only expects to have to fill one or two open roster spots for the Breakers. Those one or two spots may not necessarily be filled by drafted players. Each team will hold open tryouts. Boston’s will be Feb. 28 and March 1. Players can either be invited to attend, or pay the fee ($100 in Boston’s case) to take their shot at the team(s) of their choosing. The fee is not to deter anyone from participating, but to help cover the costs involved in the process. Because of budgetary issues, Crossley said he didn’t expect to make many phone calls for invitations. So, if you’re an undrafted Bruin, Cardinal, Pilot, etc., you would have to add in the cost of airfare and lodging since the WPS is now all on the East Coast. It’s obviously a costly endeavor, but one many players will take. Crossley estimated that he may have 40 players attend. Gabarra’s estimate was slightly higher at 50 to 100. So much competition for so few spots. Is it really worth trying out? You bet it is! Stay tuned for details in my next article.