BOGACZYK: Woods Goes from Herd to Region I Youth Coaching Success
The Word on the Herd-June 24, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
-- No one on the West Virginia Futbol Club 99 Black needs to be told what Coach Ashleigh Woods' two passions are. Her players will play with those passions when the 245-team US Youth Soccer Region I Tournament descends on Barboursville and Huntington in the coming days.
And while a good amount of the U16 boys' and girls' pool play is scheduled at the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex and Thursday's Opening Ceremonies are set for Edwards Stadium, those 22 games aren't the tournament's only strong Marshall connection.
There's Woods, a former Thundering Herd all-conference goalkeeper who not only guides the U15 state champions, but also is the first-year WVFC girls' coaching coordinator while also coaching U11 and U13 teams. Somehow, Woods, 31, finds time for CrossFitWV, which she owns and operates in downtown Charleston.
"It keeps me very busy, and very organized," Woods said.
Those two passions -- fitness and soccer -- have fueled Woods since she lettered four seasons (2001-04) in net for the Herd. She finished her Marshall career with a 0.84 goals-against average, and still ranks among the MU top four in several keeper career statistics.
As a junior in 2003, Woods was named the All-Mid-American Conference first team keeper ... which is very impressive considering league coaches voted for her from a Herd team that struggled to 2-15-1 and 2-10 (MAC) records. Two seasons earlier, as a freshman, she posted 8.5 shutouts.
She was Marshall's last first team all-conference selection in her sport until midfielder Kelly Culicerto was All-Conference USA first team this past season. "I got into coaching right out of grad school," said Woods, who has a sports management and marketing bachelor's degree and a master's in athletic administration from Marshall. "My goal was to own a sports facility."
So, she's owned CrossFit in the capital city for five years. Doesn't that mean she's reached her goal?
"Well, I wish there was a big soccer field behind it," Woods said.
She coached with the West Virginia Chaos youth program before that Charleston-based organization merged this year with the Huntington-based West Virginia Soccer Club. It's made for stronger teams in the I-64 corridor, but Woods and her U15 bunch are no strangers to Region I play, which features teams from 15 state soccer associations.
"In U12 (three years ago), we made it to the semifinals in Lancaster, Pa.," said Woods, a native of Penfield, N.Y., a Rochester suburb. "We were the first West Virginia team to make the (Region I) semifinals.
"The next year at U13, we went to Rhode Island. We didn't make it last year, but here we are back again as the state champs ... We beat the Fury, from Morgantown, after they beat us last year, so it was a little payback."
Woods said adapting the fitness side of her career to coaching youth soccer isn't difficult. It helps that she's coaching some of the state's top players in their age bracket.
"Fitness is really important on our team," the former Herd keeper said. "These girls know they'll need fitness and strength to play at the next level, which most of them will want to do. And to most of these kids I have, fitness is really important.
"The sport can come easier depending on the level of fitness, and a lot of these kids take CrossFit classes, too."
Woods said guiding the WVFC girls' coaching efforts and working with three teams is as much enjoyment as it can be a time-share challenge.
I think once I got into it, I just really enjoyed youth work," Woods said. "You work with them all the way through from the time they're 10 years old, and you see their progress and that's rewarding. You get to connect with all of their families.
"It was natural for me, because soccer was a big part of my life when I was young. I just enjoy it."
And while Woods will be focused on the 99 Black team in the next several days -- pool play is scheduled Friday-Sunday, with semifinals Monday and championships Tuesday in age classes from 12-19 -- she likes bouncing back among her U11, U13 and U15 teams.
"All of them (age groups) have their respective challenges," Woods said. "The younger ones, they kind of look up to you and you show them the way. The 13s, they're starting to come up with their own ways to play the game. They're starting to figure it out. The 15s, they know how to play, so you try to guide them.
"Honestly, I really enjoy every one of them."
Woods' WVFC 99 Black squad is in Pool C with teams from Connecticut, Vermont and western Pennsylvania. The West Virginia champs will play games Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Barboursville Park Complex.
"It's a pretty competitive bracket; all those teams are good," Woods said. "We just need to take one game at a time. We know what it takes to win ... We've gone to a few different showcases this year and done well. We won the Cincinnati United Cup and that was a 16-year-old bracket, so it was a challenge for us."
Kevin Long, pointing toward his eighth season as Marshall women's coach, works with Woods in the WVFC program and said the former Herd keeper knows how to get the most from her youth teams.
"Ashleigh sees the game very well, develops technical players and creates a competitive environment among her teams that breeds success," Long said.
"Her background in fitness training is very impressive and the discipline required to achieve the high level of strength and fitness she has earned through CrossFit is something that translates to her teams. Her teams are filled with disciplined, assertive and goal-oriented players who she has molded into very competitive teams.
"She never played for me here at Marshall, but she still holds many records here, and I am certain that her success as a player comes from the same internal drive she brings as a coach."