Women’s Soccer Pioneers Continue to Blaze the Trail in the ECNL
RICHMOND, VA (October 10, 2017)- One of the pivotal moments for women’s soccer in America occurred when the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) captivated the nation with their 1999 Women’s World Cup Championship, defeating China in a penalty shoot-out and setting records in both attendance and TV viewership. This moment inspired a generation of young girls to play the game, and started women’s soccer on a long path of growth and change.
Three decorated international stars that played a huge role in the 1991 and 1999 Women’s World Cup championships are now coaching in the ECNL, inspiring the next generation of players. Shannon Higgins Cirovski, Shannon Mac Millan and Tiffeny Milbrett were all members of the USWNT and World Cup Champions. Each of these female leaders brings their unique expertise, knowledge and experience in the game to coaching in the ECNL to help develop the next generation of Amazing Young Women.
Cirovski, Mac Millan and Milbrett traveled different paths as they transitioned from player to coach, but all had the overriding desire to give back to the game that gave them so much. Now, as experienced coaches with long career paths, they have a unique perspective on the youth female game of today.
Shannon Cirovski (Bethesda SC Director of Coaching)
Cirovski was an integral member of the USWNT in the first Women’s World Cup Championship in 1991. She notched two assists in the 2-1 victory against Norway in the Final, earning the United States its first world title.
In college, Cirovski was a star at the University of North Carolina (UNC) under the direction of coaching legend Anson Dorrance. She is part of an elite group of players to have claimed the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) National Championship every season of her career, going undefeated all four years.
Cirovski was awarded the MAC Hermann Trophy her senior season, an award given to the top female college soccer player in the country. She was also named to the Soccer America College Team of the Century in 2000, and inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2002.
Following her successful playing career, Cirovski began her coaching career as an Assistant Coach at George Washington University (GWU) and moved into the Head Coach role after just one season. After heading the program for six seasons, she coached U18 USWNT for one year before accepting the Head Coach position at the University of Maryland where she remained for six seasons before stepping down to focus on family.
Cirovski did not stay away from the game for long, returning to the sideline after a three-year break to coach at the youth club level. Her club coaching experience began with a local club, where she quickly saw the need for players to have more exposure to college coaches in order to have the opportunity to play at the next level.
“Our team moved to an ECNL club for the exposure,” said Cirovski. “The amount of collegiate coaches on the sidelines at all levels was important to my players and families, and not just the Division I coaches – there is presence from Division II and III coaches as well. We want all of our players that want to play collegiately to have a quality experience, and that means matching their experience to their level of play. That is what I love about the league. The ECNL provides an all-encompassing environment for the players.”
Beyond the exposure, the level of professionalism and the exciting atmosphere stand out about the ECNL to Cirovski. The competition is something that she wishes she had when she was a player, and is part of what drives her to give back to the youth of today.
As the Director of Coaching, Cirovski realizes the influence she can have on the women’s game, not only for young female players, but for young female coaches as well. She recognizes the value female coaches can bring to the game, and is a mentor to women looking to step into the coaching realm. Approximately 60% of Bethesda SC’s staff are female. Cirovski plans to continue her investment in young women both on and off the field as she continues to be a pioneer in the game.
Shannon Mac Millan (Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks Executive Director)
Shannon Mac Millan’s club Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks is a new ECNL Member Club this season. Mac Millan was a member of the USWNT for twelve years, earning a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics (scoring the first goal of the match), a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics, and the 1999 Women’s World Cup championship. She ended her career with an impressive 60 goals in 176 caps, and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2016.
In college, Mac Millan played for coaching legend Clive Charles at the University of Portland (UP), earning All-American honors all four years, and leading the Pilots to three conference titles. She earned the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy her senior year, joining Cirovski on the coveted list of award recipients.
Following her playing career, Mac Millan became an Assistant Coach for the UCLA Women’s Soccer program, spending two seasons with the Bruins and helping lead them to two NCAA Women’s College Cup Final Four appearances.
In 2010, Mac Millan relocated to San Diego to become involved in the youth game with Del Mar Carmel Valley (DMCV) Sharks. Currently she oversees over 65 competitive teams and 120 recreation teams as the Executive Director, and coaches a U13 team.
Mac Millan has already attended multiple ECNL National Events and her club has gone “All In” by being a member of both the Girls ECNL and Boys ECNL programs. The competition, exposure and off-field components made ECNL the best choice for DMCV Sharks.
“The biggest reason we chose the ECNL is because of the proven platform for getting players college exposure,” said Mac Millan. “The ECNL also embraces the life lessons you can learn from the game and realizes the game goes beyond the field.”
Mac Millan is excited to see her players’ reactions when they experience their first ECNL National Event. She has seen it first hand, and she knows it will be eye opening, incredibly exciting, and challenging for the players.
“These kids work hard, and the environment the ECNL creates celebrates the talent and effort put in by the players and coaches. The ECNL National Events provide a happy, healthy, exciting environment for players, coaches, parents and fans, and in turn provide an unbelievable opportunity for exposure at the highest level.”
Tiffeny Milbrett (Colorado Storm Head Coach U15 and U17 ECNL)
Tiffeny Milbrett is in her fourth season as a coach in the ECNL leading Colorado Storm’s ECNL U15 and U17 teams. Milbrett scored 100 goals in 206 appearances for the USWNT including the game winner in the 1996 Olympic gold medal game against China.
Milbrett was a multi-sport athlete growing up, starring in soccer, basketball and track. She ultimately decided to play college soccer for the University of Portland where she was a three-time All American and MAC Hermann Trophy finalist. Both Milbrett’s and Mac Millan’s collegiate jerseys are currently proudly displayed side-by-side in the Chiles Center at UP, and posters of both adorn the stadium walls.
After her playing career ended, Milbrett joined ECNL Member Club Mountain View Los Altos Soccer Club (MVLA) as a coach, and then relocated to coach for ECNL club Colorado Storm.
“The competitive platform is better than anything we have seen,” said Milbrett. “The ECNL gives us the opportunity to open the eyes of our players to the level of competition and talent around the country. It is reality, and provides a comparison of who players are competing with for college spots. It is so critical, as players strive to become the best player they can be, that they can measure themselves against others at the top level.”
Milbrett believes it is imperative that players experience a competitive environment early in their youth careers so that they understand what it takes mentally, physically and emotionally to make it to the next level. Traveling to play different clubs in their conference and around the country is important because the challenge faced in each of these competitions is essential to the development of the players.
Shannon Cirovski, Shannon Mac Millan and Tiffeny Milbrett are not only legends on the pitch, but true advocates for the game and for the growth of female players.
About Elite Clubs National League: The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States through: (i) improving the competitive environment through creation of a true national competitive league; (ii) improving the process for identifying elite female soccer players through a systematic scouting and identification program based on national competitions; and (iii) improving the daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs through developing best practices and training and organizational guidelines for its member clubs. The ECNL is sanctioned by US Club Soccer and is sponsored by Nike Soccer.
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