Jan. 22, 2002
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
For the second time in six months, FSU head soccer coach Patrick Baker was invited to assist the United States U-19 Women’s National Team as they prepare for the first-ever FIFA U-19 World Championships. The team will travel to Trinidad & Tobago May 5-12, 2002 in order to begin the process of qualifying for the World Championships, which will be held in Canada from August 17, 2002 to September 1, 2002.
“Anytime you can come into a national program and be on the coaching staff it is an honor and it’s very exciting,” said Baker. “I worked with this same age group in July but at that time I worked with April Heinrichs because head coach Tracy Leone was sick. Working with Tracey this time made me realize a few things: first, I realized what a great coach Tracey is and second how good this U-19 national team is. It’s a special and dynamic group that will be heard from quite often this summer in preparation for the world cup.”
Baker was at the team’s Olympic training headquarters in Chula Vista, Ca, from December 27 to January 3 working with collegiate players and some high school seniors as they prepared for the first round of qualifications in just five months. Baker not only assisted in the team’s six training sessions and four games but he got the rare chance to observe some of the world’s top coaches in action. As much success as he has had at FSU, the 13-year coaching veteran knows there are always things he can learn from others.
“Being a part of these national team training camps definitely helps me as a coach,” said Baker. “Just to see someone as dynamic as Tracey and the way she works with the players, the different sessions that she has, what coaching points she makes and when she makes them is a great experience. Getting the opportunity to see different things like that is great for me. Hearing her speak at meetings is also a great experience, she brings a wonderful energy level.
“When I go to these national camps I get to be an observer and I am able to soak things up. That is probably one of the biggest benefits for me. I constantly gather bits and pieces of information and hopefully at the end I am able to use the things that will be helpful for our program.”
One of Baker’s responsibilities while with the national team was to evaluate the squad during their training sessions and four scrimmages. The U-19’s won all four friendlies by a combined score of 14-4 including two come-from-behind wins. His week with the U-19’s gave Baker the opportunity to work with some familiar faces in ACC players Casey McCluskey (Duke) and Lindsay Gusick (Virginia) while also reacquainting himself with some of the nation’s top freshman in Auburn goalkeeper Megan Rivera and Texas’ stand out freshman Kelley Wilson.
“The coaches are still trying to finalize the team that will attempt to qualify in Trinidad & Tobago in May,” said Baker. “It’s going to be a combination of some college freshman, some high school seniors that will be going into their first year of college and possibly some younger players. The thing that I realized though, was that this team has come a long way since the last time I was with them in July and a lot of these players keep getting better and better and it’s making the team much more dynamic. It is an outstanding group.”
Baker has been a part of the USA’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) for more than 14 years and recently finished serving as the director for Region III of the girl’s ODP. He has also been an assistant coach with the 2000 U-16 women’s national team. Prior to working with the U-16 team, he assisted head coach Lauren Gregg with the women’s national team for three consecutive years. He served as Gregg’s assistant for the U-21 national team for three years and was also the assistant coach for the 1999 U-21 women’s national team.
“I have never really been told why I have been involved and get those phone calls for national team camps,” said Baker. “I hope that I am able to give something to the team. I thanked Tracey time and time again when I was there and I thanked her after. Not only is it and honor but being able to associate yourself with someone like Tracey is such a great thing.
“Although you are not standing there with the full national team when the national anthem is playing, just being involved with the process and helping out in any way possible is a great experience. To work with these players who have such an awesome opportunity in front of them is a neat thing whether you are an equipment manager, coach or whatever it may be. It’s very exciting to be a part of the process.”
Upon his return, Baker immediately turned his attention back to his 11th-ranked Seminoles as FSU looks ahead to national signing day February 6, 2002. The last two classes Baker has brought in have been ranked No. 13 and No. 8 in the nation and he will look to continue that trend when he announces the signing of his fourth recruiting class in a few weeks. In mid-February, the Seminoles will begin preparing to face one of the most challenging spring schedules since Baker’s arrival. The squad will spend the spring semester traveling to Austin, Texas to face the Canadian women’s national team, then travel to Oregon where they will face a Top 20 squad from the University of Washington. Mixed in between those travel dates will be the program’s first-ever Alumni Game and games versus Oregon, Jacksonville University, UCF and possibly the University of Texas.