Region III consists of players that come from the States of Oklahoma, Texas (which is further divided to North and South Texas), Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, host state Alabama, and of course Mississippi. There is also a Region I (New England States), II (Midwest), and IV (West + Alaska and Hawaii)
Region III ODP Camp (for both Boys and Girls) is unique as it is the only Regional Camps that pulls USSF referees from the said states and referee the games they play that helps the coaches decide on which players to bring to the National ODP (which will be held in November). The referees are not paid to do the games at this camp (but are paid travel expenses and these games do count as far as upgrading as a referee is concerned) and are there to learn from the top referees this country has (and I had the honor and privilege of being looked at and assessed for the last 5 days by Chris Penso - 1 of just 7 FIFA Referees the United States has). All other regions pull local referees and are paid to do the games at those camps - and are typically not as well trained and are not taught at what they did incorrectly.
The players themselves are assessed in their abilities for Technique, Tactics, Fitness, Athletic ability, and their Psychological Components (i.e. attitude). Two players from Oxford did participate in this year's ODP Camp (OHS Boys Soccer players Connell Yoste and Brookes Kevin participated with their age groups) representing Mississippi.
ODP is a program that started 35+ years ago and has really progressed as the years went on. For those that may have missed it, the first step of the ODP tryouts was right here in Oxford - one of 3 this state had in terms of local tryouts. The state tryouts were held later on in the South part of the state. The Regional tryouts just happened these past two weeks.
At the Region III ODP, players learn how to play tactically. The coaches there teach them the 4-3-3 formation (4 defensive backs, 3 midfielders, and 3 forwards/strikers) and Goalkeepers are taught to communicate with the players and basically "quarterback" their team defensively. The Keepers are also taught not to punt it the moment they get their hands on the ball (but not prohibited from doing so) and to play the ball short to one of their defenders and work their way out from the back on offense. They are also taught to play the simple pass instead of forcing a pass 30 yards or so away.
The experience the players AND the referees gain from this camp is invaluable. Referees within this region get better from the older and much more experienced referees who are teaching them what they are doing wrong so that they are better when they go back to their own state. The players can take their experience back and teach their teammates about what they learned over at ODP and somewhat implement their experiences back to their team - I do hope Yoste and Kevin do that with the OHS Soccer Team and are successful in doing so.
I do hope more Oxford players (next year, it will be people born from 1997-2001) participate in ODP tryouts and I get to see more of the Chargers at Tuscaloosa next year. I'm not leaving the Lady Chargers out, I hope I get to hear that several Lady Chargers get to Montevallo, AL for their ODP because they are being taught nearly the exact same thing - and there is always talent in Oxford.
I've been through ODP Camps for 15 days over the past two years. I have seen great soccer and I know from those camps I have improved as a referee. I've seen a lot of VERY good players in those 15 days - several have even faced the Mexican team that always comes for games. The referees and players all have a good time and make some new friends along the way.