Player Development: The Evolution of Beverly Yanez

Photo by: Jane Gershovich

Player development is one of the six AYSO Philosophies because AYSO believes that all players should be able to develop their soccer skills and knowledge to the best of their abilities, both individually and as members of a team. This is a philosophy that Seattle Reign FC forward and AYSO Alumna, Beverly Yanez, has seemingly lived her life by.

Yanez, a California native from the warm Inland Empire city of Moreno Valley, recalls her love for the game and first spark of development began with a young AYSO team in her hometown by the name of the Green Machines. This humble beginning left a big imprint on her younger self, making her time with AYSO some of her favorite throughout her illustrious career.

“The biggest thing for me was that AYSO brought me so much fun. That fun and happiness are what propelled me to keep playing the game. That’s ultimately what led to all my other opportunities to play,” recalls Yanez. “That fun factor of me being a kid and needing that – I am forever grateful for.”

Those simpler days of soccer are far behind her and now Yanez is a tenured player with Seattle Reign FC, where she became the third player in club history to appear in 100 regular-season matches. A feat her younger, ambitious, green jersey-clad self would be proud of. Even then she knows the journey must continue.

“I would say that player development never ends, there’s always something that I can be better at. I believe what separates good players from being great is their ability to know there’s always something to be better at,” says Yanez.

Yanez has racked up a series of accolades in her past eight years of professional soccer, but these accolades have not come without a constant need to reinvent her game. Similar to how nature has shown time and time again that environmental changes lead to evolution, Yanez has adapted and developed her soccer career.

First, making the move from the University of Miami to the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer team, Washington Freedom, that included stars Abby Wambach and Homare Sawa – Yanez had to acclimate.

“The jump into the pros was big and the speed of play was much faster. I remember coming in as a rookie and just being like ‘wow’, very thrilled that I have made it to that level but very shocked at the jump,” says Yanez.

When an opportunity to raise her level of play presents itself, Yanez is jumping to go and she has shown it. Her next change came in the form of adversity, as the WPS folded in the offseason of 2011 due to financial reasons. Her team at the time, Sky Blue FC had a preseason trip planned to Japan and the team decided that even though they no longer had a season in sight, they would take advantage of the preseason trip that was booked far in advance.

“I felt I was that 5-year-old AYSO kid sitting in my uniform but I didn’t have a game that weekend and I was crying. Our team still had a trip planned to go to Japan – the trip was already made, tickets were already there,” says Yanez about the offseason turmoil. “Last thing I wanted to do was sit there and sulk about the league and I wanted to play and have fun. So I took that trip to Japan with my team and we played against INAC Kobe.”

She would, of course, impress in that friendly match against the prestigious Japanese soccer club, INAC Kobe Leonessa, and a contract to play for them came soon after. Yanez had a tough decision to make – turn her life upside down with a Japanese team she regarded as ‘the female equivalent of FC Barcelona’s men’s team’ or head back comfortably to the U.S. and look for another opportunity. Her eagerness to increase her level of play took over and she accepted. With the help of her husband, former Columbus Crew SC player and AYSO alumnus, Othaniel Yanez, they were off to the city of Kobe, Japan.

Not only did she have to take on a challenge of a new country, she had to now take on a new position on the field after INAC Kobe’s starting center forward was injured in a prior match. Her new coach immediately turned to her and asked if Yanez was up to the task of moving from the center mid position she had played nearly her entire life to the unknown land of a goal-hungry center forward. She responded, “Well, can I? Yes. Will I be good? I can’t guarantee but I’ll do my best and try and make this work.” Yanez worked and delivered.

Yanez worked tirelessly to earn her newly given role and won the Nadeshiko League’s Golden Boot/Top Scorer award in 2013, proving once again she can develop under any pressure.

“It was like sitting in a new seat in the classroom that you’re not comfortable in and all of a sudden you notice a poster on the wall that you’ve never seen before. There’s a language barrier on top of all of that. It was a very tough time for me. I needed to have that mindset of – I am going to become a good forward. Finally, I said, it’s ok that I am uncomfortable.”

Because of her open-mindedness to change, the trophies came fast and Yanez would play a vital role in championship campaigns such as the 2013 International Women’s Club Championship Final match that saw INAC Kobe Leonessa defeat Chelsea Ladies FC 4-2. 

Beverly Yanez went to Japan as a center mid and came out a game tested center forward, ready to translate her new-found skills in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) after a 2014 move to Seattle Reign FC. Seattle found Yanez much like INAC Kobe first did – after a friendly between the two in Seattle’s very first match in 2013, club president Bill Predmore noticed the talent Yanez displayed and they approached with the idea of bringing her to the Emerald City.

Now four years since her move to a club regarded for their camaraderie and positive culture, Seattle Reign is providing Yanez chances to develop on the field and off the field as well. In September it was announced that she had been chosen by an NWSL and U.S. Soccer partnership offering 21 players a chance to earn their U.S. Soccer C License cost-free, preparing them for a possible profession of coaching after playing.

“The time that I spent playing here in the U.S. and my experiences in Japan helped me develop and find who I was as a player and I just want to help players find who they are and who they want to become,” says Yanez about coaching as a profession. “Coaching is definitely something I want to get into once I am finished playing and it’s something that I am very passionate about.

Looking back at her progression in soccer, Yanez understands that a good environment can nurture a love for the game, a love that has seen her emerge as a great role model of AYSO’s philosophy of Player Development.

“Having that fun environment, getting lots of touches on the ball as a kid and playing soccer really creates that thought process of realizing ‘I love this’ and I continue to do this today because of that five-year-old’s view of ‘I
love this’.”

Thank you, Beverly Yanez, for continually displaying your love for the game through your exemplary actions on and off the field. We can’t wait to see what you will accomplish next.