By Jonathan Castner
Best known for guiding the USA Women to Olympic gold in 1996 and to a World Cup trophy in 1999, Tony DiCicco has recently taken charge of the U20 USA Women with the task of qualifying for this fall's U20 World Cup.
This issue, GP chats with the Connecticut native about his return to coaching the Nats and of his role with Women's Professional Soccer.
Why did you take the job with the U20s?
I havenít coached a national team since the end of 1999 so this is a wonderful opportunity to train with a unique group of players. Our goals are two fold. One is to win the gold medal. This age group has gone two cycles without winning. We need to re-establish that winning mentality. I know weíre one of the elite programs but we havenít had as much success recently. The other goal is to develop players so that they can step onto the womenís national team and they can develop on that level. We need to develop these players so that they can step back to the professional game and to their college programs.
Are you pleased with the results in training so far?
I was out there for about 4 days so I got a chance to train a bit. But itís a new group for me and I donít have a lot of history with these players. Iím still learning the qualities they have. It will take me a couple of games to get to know them better. I know we have some real talent in this age group. I was very impressed by the quality.
You're also the chair of the technical committee for Women's Professional Soccer. Are you pleased with the league's progress so far?
It's a committee of coaches - we're technical advisors so to speak. We are making suggestions as far as putting players on rosters, allocations to drafts, combines, and in regards to roster size.
You wear a lot of hats in this sport. Does this take its toll on you in any way?
This team is not a wear down situation. But when you take on a big project, you have to drop the other things or pass them on to other people. My job here with the U20s and with the Boston Breakers will take priority.
"Sports are probably the last bastion of gender division in this country."
The women's national team has struggled the last few years. Do you think the younger players lack the motivation of your group of players from the Nineties? What is the issue?
Weíve lost our way a bit in terms of player identification as far as our youth programs go. Our youth soccer business is built around winning. This is business. Unfortunately, winning and player development donít necessarily go hand in hand. We have some young exciting players who are not as physically developed as the other players. And we ignore those players for the stronger, bigger players. We're developing teams better but not the individual players.
In the EPL youth academies, they donít care if their teams win trophies, theyíre working to bring up a good player to the first team.
Has FIFA done enough to help grow the women's game?
Are they doing enough? If they were doing more, they probably wouldnít have put the World Cup in September when every menís league is up and running. They put it in the most concentrated sports calendar. The U20 World Championship is held during the NCAA tournament. Chile wanted this event in late December when some leagues have a break. Instead, itís being held in late November. FIFA requires each federation to spend 10 percent of its allocation on women. Thatís not enough.
I noticed very few women at the recent NSCAA Convention in Baltimore. Are there enough American women involved in coaching?
There isnít. Why is that? Because we have more women collegiate players than men.
Women tend to leave coaching in greater numbers than men. They start families. Some will juggle family life with their jobs.
The NSCAA Womenís Committee is a pretty active committee. They organized a womenís coaching symposium at the Algarve Cup. One of the things that Iím looking to do is to create a mentoring program for promising female coaches.
Clearly this is a cultural problem then.
I have an opinion on this. Sports is probably the last bastion of gender division in the country.
If you went to an attorney two decades ago and it was a woman, youíd probably leave the office. Or if you went to a doctor and it was a woman, you might have thought twice. Those disciplines have changed.
But we donít have women coaching men. Itís kind of distorted a little bit. We get so caught up with the idea that only men should coach men rather than who is the most qualified.