Little Alex’s big strides: DUSC player picked for elite program


By Judith Stiles

On the soccer field they used to call her “Little Alex.” And no wonder. She was nine years old playing with 14-year-old girls who were often a foot taller than she was.

But when Alexandra Bushman plays for the Downtown United Soccer Club or the citywide Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League Select Team, her size makes no difference. All her teammates know that whenever scrappy Little Alex goes up against an opponent, somehow she’ll always win the ball.

Now at 10 years old, her enormous talent and terrific ball skills have been recognized by the prestigious New York State Olympic Development Program. After several highly competitive and grueling tryouts, Bushman was chosen out of hundreds of girls to play on the O.D.P. Team in the southern region of New York. Thirty-six girls were picked from a very competitive player pool drawn from Long Island, the five boroughs and Westchester.

They will train weekly with top coaches and have games and tournaments with other O.D.P. teams outside their region. Bushman will also be tracked and considered to play on the Regional Team, and as she gets older, will be considered to play on the U.S. National Team.

Her current coach at the Downtown United Soccer Club, Laura Rizzo, is thrilled but not surprised that Bushman was chosen.

“Alex really stands out in a game,” Rizzo said. “She is fast and has incredible ball skills for someone her age. Most of all, she reads the field very well because she understands the game.”

The young booter faces a three-hour roundtrip commute to get to practices and games, but that does not discourage her. She understands that it will not be easy juggling homework from the Lab School with her new soccer schedule, but she is eager to begin.

For years players, both girls and boys, from DUSC have tried out for O.D.P., and although several players had callbacks, none was ever accepted to the program. Thanks to the leadership of head coach Cesar Markovic and the excellent coaches he has brought to DUSC, the level of play in Lower Manhattan has shot up dramatically in just a few short years. Not only is Bushman the very first player from DUSC to make the program, but she’s also the first girl on the team from the Cosmopolitan League. Little Alex is making big strides.

Stiles is director of the Girls Select Program at Cosmopolitan League and an executive board member of DUSC.