Q&A With Oregon ODP Star
By Erik Lyslo
One word best describes '92 girls Oregon ODP player Sarah Bridges: "active." I know coaches in all different sports talk about this term all the time, but it's rare to see a player remain active at all times in any sport.
Think about a team or player you like, and then see if you can think of the player you always see moving. As a defender, this type of player is a nightmare to mark, cover, guard or defend. To be this type of player takes endurance, a good mental attitude, determination and heart. Sarah Bridges has all four of these characteristics, and this is what makes her the player she is today.
Sarah is a two-year Oregon ODP player. She plays club ball for FC Portland and has given a verbal agreement to the University of Portland to play in college. She's an ODP Regional player (which makes her one of the top-30 players in the Western part of the United States for the '92 age group) and has traveled with the Regional Team to the Thanksgiving Tournament in Florida. Now, she is looking forward to taking that next jump in her soccer career – the National Team – which could happen if she shows well at Regional Camp this year.
As a player, Sarah is one of those rare talents that come along in Oregon soccer. Again, "active" is the term to describe her, but she also uses her size and strength to go through players and create opportunities as well as anybody. Her vision and play-making ability to set up her teammates is unquestioned, and her versatility to play either in the middle of the park, or up front, is a luxury for any coach.
"She can play anywhere, she is versatile, she's good on the ball and she's good in the air," said '92 girls ODP head coach and Portland State women's head coach Laura Schott. "Her biggest strength is her activity, though. Her refusal to give up on any play keeps the other team off-balance at all times. She's always looking for the ball and I just think the sky's the limit for her. I think she'll get her chance for the National Team this year … she has special abilities."
On top of everything else, Sarah has a wonderful attitude, strong support from her parents and respect for the game. You won't find a nicer person to talk to or deal with, making her easy to root for. On behalf of the Oregon ODP staff, we wish Sarah the best of luck for the rest of the club and ODP season. We'll be pulling for her not only at Regional Camp this year, but also at the University of Portland, where we know she'll have a great collegiate career. Below are some questions we asked Sarah about soccer, life and ODP. Enjoy!
Sarah, you've had a nice two-year run in ODP so far. Talk about your experience – has it been positive? What have you enjoyed most about it? Do you wish there was more to do with the ODP team? Coaching?
I have had an excellent experience with the ODP program. The coaching is of high quality, and the team is full of very strong players. Since we do not meet that often, I would have to say the tournaments are the most fun. It's fun to compete against these girls on the club level, then come to an ODP tournament and play side-by-side. I wish there was more this year (our final year) to do in terms of tournaments, but it will be fun to attend Regional Camp again. My only regret with ODP is that I didn't join the program earlier.
As a player, do you relish the chance to have the opportunity to get to the next level, the Regional level? Talk about that experience, what you accomplished last year and what you hope to accomplish this year at Regional Camp, which you've been invited to attend.
Of course I do! The Regional level is important for an aspiring young soccer player. When I went with the Regional Team to Florida last year, I had one of the best soccer experiences of my life. I was able to play against some of the best '92 soccer players in the nation. It was humbling to play against such competition because it showed me that even when you get to that next level, there is always so much more work and effort you can and have to put in. At Regional Camp this year, I hope to make the Regional Team again, and hopefully continue on to the next level.
Has ODP challenged you to be a better soccer player? The idea behind the ODP program is to challenge elite soccer players who want more. Has ODP done that for you so far?
ODP takes most of the best players in the state and puts them on one team, so I would say ODP definitely challenged me to be a better player. Every practice is like another tryout for the upcoming tournament or event. You have to go in with the mentality that you aren't on the team yet. I would say that because each practice was like that, it challenged our whole team to play competitively and aggressively. With that attitude, we challenged each other to play the best we could and to work on our own outside of practice. I really enjoy that competitive nature that our team has.
The '92 team is one of the more talented ODP teams in the nation. You tied the National Champion Cal-South team last year but had a tough go in Phoenix this year. Talk about this team some and what the Regional Championship experience was like.
Phoenix was … rough. It was pretty much the same team as last year, with a few new players and a few missing. We also had new coaches. I think we just struggled because we never really had the whole team out for each practice. I don't want to make excuses for our performance because there shouldn't be an excuse, but we just had a tough tournament. We couldn't finish, for one thing. Sometimes, that just happens. You win some, you lose some; the most important thing is we learned from it. The Regional Championship was new for me since I had to drop my spot last year with my injury. It's cool to see all the teams from the region at one tournament; it's also pretty intimidating because this tournament wasn't to be taken lightly. All those teams meant business, and it showed in their play.
To young players looking to try out for the ODP program, do you recommend they do so and why?
Go out and kick every day. When you're younger, there is definitely more time to just go find a wall and kick off of it. I know it sounds demanding when you are a younger player, but the earlier you learn good habits, the easier it is to keep improving when you're older. You don't even need other players there. You just need to find some simple drills with a wall and just go out for 20 minutes or so every day. One of the most crucial things about soccer is having good habits with the ball.
What kind of advice would you give younger players who are thinking about trying out for ODP?
I haven't played in the program that long so I'm not an expert by any means, but the ODP program on top of club soccer can be demanding for some. It's a high-level program, and I would advise younger players to make sure that soccer is really what they want to do because this program demands it of them. On top of that, the ODP program is competitive, and it looks for players who are willing to compete and do what it takes to get to the next level.
Making the Regional Camp state roster is one of the highest honors an ODP player can accomplish. Describe to younger players what camp is like and what they need to do to prepare themselves.
Oh, Regional Camp! Props to the girls who have gone in the past years consistently because camp is not easy! It's hot, tiring and takes a lot of effort. But in the end, it all pays off. It's fun to go with your team to spend time together, and to play in front of the regional staff. It's also fun to play against other states and to see how much you've improved, and how much they've improved from the last match-up. To prepare yourself … I would drink lots and lots of water, for starters. It gets so hot, and you will be out in the sun all day. Soccer-wise, at that point, you have done pretty much all you can do. If you go out the week before and start killing yourself, that's not going to make you better by any means. It will just wear you out for the long week ahead. Plus, get plenty of sleep each night. You're definitely going to need it with three sessions a day!
Talk about your future as a soccer player. Have you given a verbal to U of P yet or any other school? What has that process been like and how excited are you about having the opportunity to play at the collegiate level?
I have given a verbal commitment to the University of Portland. The process at first seems so overwhelming, but once it gets going, it slowly gets more exciting as you reach the end goal, which of course is committing. It all comes down to liking the school for what it is, not just for the soccer aspect. One of the most important questions I asked myself in the process was, "Would I still want to be here if there was no soccer?" For U of P, it was just right. You just know as soon as you are there if the college is meant for you. I'm very excited to play at the next level. My club team practices at U of P, and I have the privilege of coming early and watching the U of P team practice. Just watching them work and play together gets me more and more excited.
After your college career, what are your plans as a soccer player?
Probably the generic dream that every young soccer player has growing up: play for the national soccer league (which is now possible with the new league!) and play on the National Team. However, if you talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk. I still want to pursue soccer after college; I just have to continue putting in the effort and work that can help lead me in that direction.