The United States Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (ODP) is a national, regional, state, and district team identification and development program for advanced players.

Some of the benefits of participating in an ODP involve exposure to both regional and national team coaches as well as college coaches. It provides the player with opportunities to represent their district, state, region, or country in competition by participating in foreign tours.

ODP also allows the experience of training and playing with the best players in a certain age group and receiving quality instruction from licensed coaches while performing in quality competitions.

Players are selected based on four components that make up a exceptional soccer player; technique, tactical understanding of the game, fitness and athletic ability, and attitude.

The ODP is for young players who are developing technically, tactically, physically, and emotionally.

Ripley High School junior Olivia Gandee has been playing soccer since she was four-years-old and had always dreamed of being on an ODP team.

Gandee had tried out for the ODP for five years and although she had come close in previous years, she had not made a team. With 2018 being her last year of eligibility for the program, she was determined to capture a spot.

“It was a four-day try-out in the hot sun,” Gandee said. “You have to make the pool each day and at the end of the last day they send out the final list.”

Gandee was excited to find out that she had made that final list. She was selected to play on two teams, one in Boca Raton, Florida and the other in Munich, Germany. Eighteen girls were selected for each team and Gandee was chosen to be on both.

She played in Florida over Thanksgiving break and then during Easter it was on to Germany.

Following an eight-and-a-half-hour flight, they arrived in Munich, Germany and were given time to settle in their hotel before watching the FC Bayern Men’s Soccer Club team, a profession soccer team in Germany, practice.

After the practice they returned to their hotel for some dinner and rest.

“It was a six-hour time change for us and was a little hard to get used to,” Gandee said.

Gandee spent nine days in Germany where they watched two professional soccer games, toured places like Olympia Park, a palace, and a castle, which she said was her favorite part of the tour, and did some shopping.

“We got to tour downtown Munich and walk the whole city and shop,” Gandee said. “That was a really fun part of the trip.”

She participated in three training sessions and played three games with her ODP team during their Germany stay. They won all three of their games, 6-0, 8-0, and 9-0.

Gandee was thankful for her experience with the ODP and her favorite part was the friendships she made.

“I made amazing friends on the team,” Gandee said. “It was something I will never forget.”

Gandee plans on playing soccer for Marshall University after she graduates from Ripley High School in 2020.