Girls Coaching Girls
Aug 10, 2015 10:11AM
● By Editorial Intern f
Photos by Vintage Couture Photography
“Set the tone, connect five, go to goal.” That’s the motto two local soccer teams chanted as they stepped onto the field last year, donning a new logo on their jerseys. Velocity Elite FC, a North Texas competitive youth soccer club, opened last April in Southlake. Just over a year later, the club has rapidly grown to six teams of girls. With former Division 1 college and professional athletes as coaches, it’s not hard to see why.
As Southlake’s very own youth soccer club prepares for its second year in action, we caught up with Executive Director John Saeger.
The idea for Velocity Elite FC was born after Saeger faced an issue he saw many local families dealing with. Driving his daughter in rush hour traffic to various soccer clubs around the Metroplex night after night, Saeger still felt like she wasn’t getting the attention she needed. One day, he said, “We have a ton of great athletes right here in Southlake – why not start something here?”
So, he took a leap and did it. Investing in his own neighborhood, as he calls it, Saeger started Velocity Elite FC, housed at Stack Velocity Sports Performance on Highway 114. He has made it his goal to provide high-quality training and one-on-one attention to young soccer players, ranging in age from about six to sixteen. “We know everybody’s names. They’re not a number. Say there’s 18 girls on a team – we develop one through 18 the same,” he says.
Saeger aims to train girls, and someday boys, to play beyond high school if they want. What goes into that is more than soccer training, speed and agility, he says. It’s focusing on the overall health and wellness of each player – that’s why the club has partnered with Ben Hogan Sports Medicine to work with the girls on concussion prevention and management.
The girls also see a nutritionist – the same nutritionist who works with FC Dallas and the Dallas Cowboys – to learn about the healthiest food choices. “If a girl wants to play beyond high school, we want to give her the tools to get to whatever goals she has,” Saeger says. “We definitely want them to eat the right things to help them be the best they can be.”
Although the focus on health and the individualized attention make the club stand out, it’s truly the coaches, in Saeger’s opinion, that have helped the girls get where they are. “These women have the right temperament for coaching these young ladies,” Saeger says.
Meet the Coaches
Lauren Alkek is a former college and professional soccer player. Recruited by a number of different schools out of high school, the Texas native chose the University of Oklahoma, where she was a starter all four years. After graduating in 2010, Alkek played professionally for three years. Then, she tore her ACL, which led her to an opportunity she “couldn’t pass up” – coaching.
“She was playing with the likes of Sydney Leroux and other U.S. Women’s National Team players, so she can certainly hold her own in that regard,” Saeger says. “But she felt that this was a better long-term opportunity for her.”
Now a coach and part owner of the Velocity Elite FC endeavor, the 25-year-old brings more than experience to the field. “As a club we are working to create a special culture where the girls are more than just teammates, they're family,” Alkek says. “The Velocity Elite FC women have set out on a quest together to become the very best they can be – not as individuals, but the best they can be for each other.”
Kelsey Devonshire, a goalie who was also a starter at OU all four years, made her way to the program after a season of playing professionally. The Richland High School alumnus is now a goalie coach with the Southlake program.
“Kelsey was coached at Oklahoma by Graeme Abel, the same coach who worked with Hope Solo,” Saeger says. “She is a phenomenal goalkeeper coach.”
Devonshire says starting every game during her four years at OU gives her a unique perspective on what goes into being an elite athlete at the next level. “From the performance training in the weight room to the conditioning and endurance training in 110 degree heat… Because of this, I am able to look at our girls and know that I can provide them with a well-rounded soccer experience,” Devonshire says.
Both coaches aim to develop the girls as people, not just as players. And apparently, their philosophy has paid off. “Watching the chemistry of the girls and their passion for the game grow has been one of the greatest things I have witnessed,” Alkek says. Devonshire adds, “These girls refuse to leave practice!”
Slow But Steady
As for the future, Saeger says a lot is in store for Velocity Elite FC. Eventually, he says they’ll make Velocity Elite Athletic Club the umbrella over many different sports. They are also going to invest in permanent, larger facilities to accommodate more kids.
“It’s our goal to become a club that everybody wants to come to,” Saeger says. “But, I don’t want to grow any faster than our infrastructure will allow. We want to get it right, do it the right way – focus on development, the health and fitness aspect, and grow from there.”
With individual attention from coaches like Alkek and Devonshire, leadership from Saeger, and a home base right here in Southlake filled with camaraderie, passion and athletic development, growth is something they can count on.