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he other day I was in a conversation with two of our country’s finest coaching minds, Mike Barr, our own director of coaching, and Jeff Tipping, former (long time) director of coaching of the NSCAA, musing about how structured our sport has become. We were talking about the “casual” soccer environment in the United States and held a shared belief that the kids of this country have been so programmed, when it comes to soccer, that casual play is almost non-existent. It was proffered that without a team, a lined field and a coach most kids would not play soccer. No one opined as to whether this was good or bad. We were just making observations. As I thought about the conversation later, it struck me that we, the soccer loving folks, had created this structure and, perhaps, we should start to consider deconstructing itrefocus kids to play in more casual environments. But, as I thought about it further, it became apparent to me that there really is


his spring most of you will be preparing for next season in one way or another. There’s a lot of activity, at all levels of the sport, preparing for when we gather teams for training in August; registration of players; deciding what camps to send the kids; what uniforms to buy; what tournaments to attend and so on. My suggestion is that the best thing you can do to prepare for next season is educate your coaches. Education is one of the cornerstones of our society. Coaching education therefore is one of the cornerstones of our soccer community. Simple logic - to ensure kids have a positive experience and develop as players, give them better coaches. If teams, or clubs, want to improve their player’s

nothing wrong with the structure of soccer. For those of us who grew up playing the sport – the “overly structured” environment seems somewhat problematic, but the reality check is that 50 years ago, absent small pockets around the country, no one was playing this sport at all. Now, millions of children play this game daily, more than 131,000 are registered in Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer alone. The structure of soccer is good. Through it we have provided a venue for kids to learn the sport, play the sport and grow to love the sport. We have also developed generations of adults who, likewise, have learned the sport and, more importantly, learned to love the sport. It has been, and continues to be, hard work to create and maintain this structure and I thank everyone involved in this sport for giving the time, energy and passion to make soccer what it is today. On a separate note, I want to thank you all for making my first term as the president of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer a great experience. Many of you know that I was recently re-elected to this office and will be serving another two-year term. I look forward to continuing to service all of you.

experiences, by developing their skills and understanding of the game, skilled and experienced teachers are required. I think most would agree with that. I think most would agree we owe that to the kids as well. Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” ~Daniel J. Boorstin, former US Librarian of Congress Coaching education is available for the novice and the experienced. Regardless of years of experience as a player, or as a coach, learning how to teach something, or coach, is a different set of skills. Coaching is not simply facilitating or organizing a set of drills. Coaching is facilitating the activities with a purpose, with a lesson in mind. It’s about creating opportunities for the kids to learn from both your instruction as well as your willingness to let them learn from the game. It’s how to best organize the lesson and how to teach to the individual as well as the team.




n 2010, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer received a record number of nominations for our annual state awards presented to those whose involvement in youth soccer is singled out by members of their own teams, clubs or leagues. Some of our state winners for 2010 went on to receive Region I honors as well. The following Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer State Awards winners were recognized at the 2011 Annual General Meeting:

CAROL URBACH- SERVICE TO YOUTH AWARD EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA YOUTH SOCCER “It was my job to serve the youth. Who would have thought that I would win an award for that? I loved working for the kids who give so much to the game. For me, there is no greater service than that to our youth:” JEFFREY SOMMER- COACH OF THE YEAR / BOYS COMPETITIVE SOUTHERN CHESTER COUNTY SOCCER ASSOCIATION “A rewarding aspect of soccer for me is the opportunity to use ‘soccer lessons’ as life lessons. There are days when you are tired and feel lousy but you fight through that to attempt to give your best.” CHRIS LAMBERT- COACH OF THE YEAR / GIRLS COMPETITIVE ASTON YOUTH SOCCER ASSOCIATION “The most rewarding aspect of coaching is seeing players grasp a concept or technical skill and apply it in a game situation and see that look on their face when they know that they got it.”

KEITH RENNER- COACH OF THE YEAR / GIRLS RECREATION DONEGAL YOUTH SOCCER CLUB “Coach Keith has been a refreshing addition to our program. He is a blessing to the girls that have been lucky enough to have been coached by him and to the parents who request him as a coach from season to season.” – Diane Kitch, parent, U-10 Girls MICHAEL FINNEGAN- ADMINISTRATOR OF THE YEAR (REGION I WINNER) SOUTHERN CHESTER COUNTY SOCCER ASSOCIATION “I find meeting so many great parents and nice kids to be the most rewarding aspect of my involvement with SCCSA. Coaches and administrators need to realize that everything they say and do while in a position of authority has a lasting impression on the kids in our charge.” ALAN ZEIGLER- VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR (REGION I WINNER) NORTH UNION UNITED SC “I love the game of soccer and want to perpetuate that love for the game to players of all ages so that they might grow as confident individuals.”

JOSEPH HUNTER- TOPSOCCER BUDDY OF THE YEAR PLYMOUTH SOCCER CLUB “Whether you are a regular athlete or a special needs athlete, every member of the community has the opportunity to play a sport- to play soccer.” DANIELA CHIEFFO- YOUNG FEMALE REFEREE OF THE YEAR COLLEGEVILLE, PA “Refereeing has taught me valuable lessons of leadership, teamwork and conflict resolution. The most rewarding part of refereeing is knowing that I can stay connected to the game and to the development of players even after I no longer play competitively.” MELVIN HOLMES- YOUNG MALE REFEREE OF THE YEAR (REGION I WINNER) YEADON, PA “The best part about being a referee is the interaction with the players and coaches. I love being amongst the referees. We have similar interests, like a brotherhood. It’s a unique bond.”


he Union League of Philadelphia’s Good Citizenship Award is presented each year to high school juniors active with Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer who demonstrate exemplary qualities of cooperative effort, selfcontrol, perseverance, serious scholarship and good sportsmanship. Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer has the honor of being one of the most recognized recipients of the prestigious awards by The Union League of Philadelphia. Our record 20 award winners were recognized at the 2011 Annual General Meeting. They are:

Not pictured in photo: Jeffrey Hauck, Cassandra Pecht and Tyler Smith


Jared Ashworth Joelle Augustine Daniel Brady Nick Branchet Emily Brooks Jeffrey Hauck Lauren Heckelman Allison Kurtz Evan Lynn Colleen McDonald


Carlisle Area YMCA Capital Area Soccer Association Coventry Soccer Association Wyomissing Area Soccer Club West-Mont United Soccer Association Central Susquehanna Soccer Club Keystone Athletic Garden Spot Youth Soccer Club Brandywine Youth Club Wyoming Valley Soccer Club

Daniel Ocker Cassandra Pecht Drew Petersen James Rooney Jordan Marie Sessa Tyler Smith Fernando Torija Jill Troutman Stephen Yarosh Brian Zolot

King of Prussia Soccer Club FC Pennsylvania Strikers PA Classics Plymouth Soccer Club Haverford Soccer Club HMMS Soccer Chambersburg Soccer Club Nether Providence Athletic Association Keystone Athletic Towamencin Youth Association

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he 25th annual Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Workshop held at United Sports in Downingtown, Pa., on March 5 brought together a record 1,500 soccer enthusiasts from across the region to celebrate every facet of the sport. There were professional coaching demonstration clinics, dynamic forums and seminars, ODP showcase games, nearly 50 vendors plus games and prizes for kids. As always, we aim to top ourselves each year. We are already preparing for 2012. See you there.



EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TURKEY HILL CHALLENGE CUP Eastern Pennsylvania Turkey Hill Challenge Cup games will begin on the weekend of March 26-27, 2011. No games will be held the weekend of April 23-24, 2011. Challenge Cup finals will be held the weekend of May 14-15 at a location to be announced at www, Cup games will be scheduled to avoid conflicts with US Youth Soccer National League and Region I League games, as well as conflicts with Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer ODP events. EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA PRESIDENTS CUP Eastern Pennsylvania Presidents Cup games will begin on the weekend of March 26-27, 2011. No games will be held the weekend of April 23-24, 2011. Eastern Pennsylvania Presidents Cup finals will be held the weekend of May 7-8 at a location to be announced at www. Cup games will be scheduled to avoid conflicts with US Youth Soccer National League and Region I League games, as well as conflicts with Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer ODP events.” EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA STATE CUP The Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup (National Championship SeriesNCS) games will begin on the weekend of March 26-27, 2011. No games will be held the weekend of April 23-24. State Cup finals will be held the weekend of May 14-15. State Cup Under-15 to Under-19 Girls and Under-18 to Under-19 Boys finals will be held the weekend of June 18-19. Locations for all finals will be announced at www. Games will be scheduled to avoid conflicts with US Youth Soccer National League and Region I League games, as well as conflicts with Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer ODP events. US YOUTH SOCCER REGION I CHAMPIONSHIPS The next stop for Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup Champions is in their own “backyard” of Lancaster, Pa., the site of the US Youth Soccer Region I Championships from June 30 to July 5. Winners of those games move on to the US Youth Soccer National Championships in Phoenix, Ariz. Even if you are not competing there are plenty of ways that you can be involved with this regional event. Volunteers are needed! More information can be found at



PENN FUSION 92 GAELS UNDER-18 GIRLS Penn Fusion Soccer Academy is pleased to announce that 17 players from the Penn Fusion 92 Gaels U-18 Girls team signed a National Letter of Intent on National Signing Day on February 2, 2011 to continue their soccer careers at the collegiate level in Fall 2011. The Gaels are four-time state champions and three-time regional finalists. “This is a very talented group of girls,” said head coach Shawn Ferris. “Their focus and commitment both on the field and in the classroom was key in helping them reach their goal of playing college soccer.”

WEST-MONT UNITED SOCCER ASSOCIATION The “Pride,” a girl’s soccer team representing the West-Mont United Soccer Association, recently collected 1,261 pieces of new and gently used soccer equipment for the Passback program, which donates items to disadvantaged teams and individuals around the world. The girls approached local schools, businesses and other soccer teams to help collect the items. This was the first year that the team participated in the Passback Program. They are thrilled with the success and they are considering making this an annual event.



some time now, I have been studying what makes a youth soccer club successful. The first thing I determined is that there is no single “best way” to run a club. Each soccer club is unique based on its membership and organization goals. As

the state association that services leagues and clubs throughout Eastern Pennsylvania with more than 131,000 players, we have the ability to work with all types of clubs to help find their own solution on how to be the best club they can be for their membership. While researching this topic, I found more and more information is being created for clubs that work with “elite” players. But as a soccer community we need to address the needs of all players, from recreation to elite, and this starts at the club level because clubs have the most important influence on a player’s soccer environment.

I have been able to determine that there are eight main factors that facilitate (or limit) a club’s ability to grow and succeed: programming, player development, coaching, parent education, refereeing, administration, facilities and community engagement. Over the next year, we will be developing guidelines that address each of these factors by studying clubs in our association as well as researching how these topics have been successfully addressed in other areas of the country. I welcome anyone who has interest in this topic and would like to take part in developing these guidelines. I can be reached at




astern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer’s Director of Coaching Mike Barr and Philadelphia Union coach John Hackworth have partnered to write a new “Best Practices Guide” aimed at clubs throughout Eastern Pennsylvania in an attempt to change the way we approach youth soccer. Barr, Hackworth and other coaches being consulted for the guide are concerned by an environment that they believe has become too results oriented and is slowly diminishing the importance of technical, quality training. “We need to put the emphasis on how the kids play, not the results,” said Hackworth. “In our environment right now the best metric for parents is what happens on a Saturday or Sunday, and their only metric is the score. We need to put our emphasis back on skill acquisition, the basic skills that a player needs and the fundamental building blocks.” “Up until 10 or 11-years-old I think we should have a level playing field for all of these kids because they mature at different rates,” said Barr. “For a club to say at the Under-9 or Under-10 age level that a player is not good enough to play on


Left to right: Sinead Farrelly and Teresa Rynier

ith their sights set on a repeat trip to the finals and another run at the championship, which was within their inaugural grasp in 2010, Philadelphia’s Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) team the Philadelphia Independence picked up two hometown favorites in the 2011 WPS draft that are sure to take them there. Havertown, Pa., native Sinead Farrelly, who played club ball with the Spirit United Gaels and was a standout in Eastern Pennsylvania’s Olympic Development Program

a certain team just doesn’t make sense to me.” It is that exclusiveness at such a young age that is alarming to Barr and Hackworth who want to see a soccer environment that is more inclusive. They believe too many players are being shut out in favor of a select few at too young of an age. Parental support of a new system of coaching our youth is a key component to what Barr and Hackworth are trying to achieve. Parents must also be onboard with the idea that it is not all about the wins and looses. “The performance of the players is what matters,” said Hackworth. “If we are competing in a league, where we have to win, where the parents think that the result is the only thing that matters then we lose.” But even Barr concedes that the message will be a tough one to sell to all parents, especially those with children already playing on travel teams. Barr has his sights set on the parents with the youngest kids who are just beginning to get their first touches on the ball. “If we start aiming our message towards parents with kids who are five and six-years-old and explain to them that development does not

necessarily correlate with winning and losing games then I think we will have a brighter picture on the horizon,” said Barr. “It is also important to add some cost efficiency to parents right now,” continued Barr. “If kids are traveling to get trained two or three times a week in addition to playing for their club teams and playing in tournaments on the weekends it is a serious issue. Not only in regards to cost but also burnout.” Barr and Hackworth are both professional coaches who have played to win and coached to win. They have been in the shoes of the very people they are preaching to. They have a deep understanding of the culture. “If a child comes home with a trophy because they won an Under-10 championship it is meaningless if they are not getting better,” said Barr. “If coaches are coaching to win games and not to develop players it is a lose situation for the players. Kids remember the coaches who made playing fun. They remember the coaches who they learned from. If we raise the level of play for the average player it stands to reason we will also raise the level of play for the elite player.”

(ODP) before heading off to the University of Virginia and being selected as an All-American during her senior year, was the first-round first pick for the Independence (second overall in the draft). Farrelly, a midfielder, is hoping the hometown ties will bring the fans out to support the team. “I am so happy and blessed that I get to be at home, and I feel like it will bring out more fans for the club because I know a lot of people want to see a local girl come out and play,” said Farrelly. “I’m just excited because I am in my comfort zone.” Midfielder Teresa Rynier’s road to the Independence saw her through her playing days with FC Delco, PA Classics and the PA Strikers. Like Farrelly, she also played with ODP. Originally from Leola, Pa., Rynier was the 23rd overall pick and the first professional draft selection ever for a James Madison University women’s soccer player. She is the school’s record holder for assists (53). Rynier knows the honeymoon phase of making it to the professional ranks is short lived because she is fighting for her

spot on the field. “Once you make the roster you are practicing everyday to be a part of the starting 11,” said Rynier. You are training everyday with one day off a week. You are just fighting for a spot. In all, both Rynier and Farrelly have found their new teammates be overwhelmingly accepting of the rookies. The two have nothing but smiles on their faces when talking about their new team and coach Paul Riley. “The team is very welcoming, and they seem like a close-knit group, which is what I think gave them a lot of their success last year,” said Rynier. “It is a lot of fun and the girls are really enjoyable.” “Coach Riley wants everyone to be better and knows the potential that this team has,” said Farrelly “He works us to our limits, but at the same time we have the most fun at practices. It is fun stuff, but it is also to the point and gets the job done.” With Farrelly and Rynier on the squad, the Philadelphia Independence have formed a formidable squad that can, indeed, get the job done this year.



any of our youth soccer players dream of one day becoming professional athletes, to live that dream of playing this beloved game well past high school, college and beyond. The dreams of five young players, products of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, came true as Major League Soccer (MLS) teams drafted them this year in the 2011 SuperDraft. Zarek Valentin of Lancaster was selected fourth in the first-round to begin his professional career with Chivas USA. Right behind him, the New York Red Bulls were quick to pick up Corey Hertzog from Reading at the #13 spot in the first-round. Next came Mechanicsburg’s Bobby Warshaw, off to play for FC Dallas as they swooped him up at #17 in the first-round. But it wasn’t over for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer players just yet. In the supplemental draft, Ryan Richter of Southampton would move on for a chance to play in his own “backyard” with the Philadelphia Union and Drew Cost of West Chester would go to Real Salt Lake. Touchline had the opportunity to speak with Zarek Valentin and Bobby Warshaw as they were settling into the new professional phases of their lives. It was time to get reacquainted with our alums. Zarek Valentin always dreamed of playing professional soccer. His older brother, Julian, who also played professionally, is now playing semiprofessional soccer. Valentin grew up playing for the club team PA Classics. He attended Manheim Township High School and the University of Akron. Zarek said he knew the transition to the professional level would be tough, but he was prepared for it. “Things are going pretty well,” said Zarek. “There is a little bit of transition off the field trying to find housing and being in a completely different time zone, but on the field it’s a little

bit smoother. My youth national team trips and events helped me out with the spotlight on the field, and participating in Eastern Pennsylvania’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) for all those years helped as well.” Zarek’s fellow teammates are making the rookie feel at home, showing him the ropes. However, Zarek knows this is the honeymoon. He will be put to the test to earn his spot on the field. Zarek began as a midfielder, but once he joined ODP he moved to defense, where he would make his mark. Zarek was an extra set of eyes from the back part of the pitch. “The Olympic Development Program is what really helped me to excel as a player in the beginning part of my career,” said Zarek. “It helped me open my eyes to how many good players there are out there and really helped me push myself along with the other guys to show how much work I had to do. It taught me skills that are irreplaceable.” Zarek’s advice for kids who want to follow the path to a professional career is the same as what he himself has always lived by. Keep it fun. “Always play with a smile on your face. The game is supposed to be fun, and at the end of the day it is just a game. Some people take it too seriously and forget to smile and enjoy the game. A lot of people do not get the opportunity to play at a highly competitive level. So, enjoy every second and soak everything up. I have seen kids get cut from teams and guys that get put through adversity at a young age rise up against it. Always strive for your goals.” Much like Zarek, Bobby Warshaw, a former Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School student, is enjoying the transition to MLS life. He was practicing up to eight hours a day at the time of this interview and spending the rest of it with his teammates in the clubhouse bonding. “The love for the game of soccer has really helped the transition to the professional level because I am doing something I enjoy all of the time,” said Bobby “The initial toughest transition was playing against the stars of the MLS. It is weird seeing them on television and then playing them. But at the end of the day you have to get over it and realize that they are the same human being you are, and your job is to stop them or if you are on their team to help them and win with them. It is cool, but you kind of got to get over it and play the game.” Bobby grew up playing for his Mechanicsburg

club team and also played for Supernova. At the age of 16, he went on to play for FC Delco and continued to play there until he went to Stanford University. Like Zarek, Bobby also received his fare share of training in ODP. “If you really want the best competition you will find it in ODP,” said Bobby. “That training was invaluable. The best trait I learned from ODP was accountability, which translated into a winning mentality. Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer coach Mike Gorni instructed our team for the first couple of years and he did about as good a job with us as any coach and team I have ever been with. He was hard on us, but it translated into us feeling accountable and feeling like we had control over what we did and what the team did. Making players accountable really translated into creating great team chemistry and a winning team.” Like Zarek, Bobby says the game should come down to kids having fun, and doing it with a smile on your face. Even though Bobby is working for a paycheck now, he gets to have fun while doing it. “Having fun is so important,” said Bobby. “If you do not really enjoy the game or you do not have a passion for it you should not be doing it. My advice to any kid reading this would be to pursue what you really love and whatever really gives you that passion and excitement. For some people who played soccer it might be playing piano or playing baseball but for some it might really be soccer. Ride that energy and excitement of what you do, and put in a lot of work and a lot of hours. Find that passion.” “To a certain degree everyone can do kind of the same move,” said Bobby. “But the guys that are most comfortable can do it with their heads up and look around. The things that I really work on are the Coerver drills, the toe touches, the L’s, V’s, and those things where it is simple, but it is 1,000 touches so that you know where the ball is in relation to your feet, and you do not have to look down at it and you can look up and watch the field. It is the simple dribbling through the cones and the things you do when you are eightyears-old that I still work on to this day.” Zarek and Bobby are among the many professional success stories born within Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. They show that anything is possible. But it is important to remember the general consensus of these players. Although you have to work hard and be dedicated you also have to have a smile on your face and have fun as you look forward to living the dream.




would argue that the single biggest positive of youth soccer, and sports in general, is that it gets kids off the couch, out of the house and exercising. Obviously, the same cannot be said for playing video games (nobody has ever improved their cardiovascular endurance level by playing FIFA 2011) or watching television (it is mighty hard to burn calories watching ESPN). So how can I, as a soccer coach, turn around and encourage, nay plead, with my players to try and watch more soccer on television? Or, more to the point, why would I? My answer centers on a point that is considered an old chestnut in soccer circles. I have heard many times from many different folks that one huge difference between young American players and many of their counterparts in Europe is that the kids over there actually watch soccer games on a far more regular basis. There is no doubt that supporting a team, having favorite players and cheering them on has huge benefits. For the younger player it helps nurture a deeper love for the sport, which is what American soccer needs so badly, and I would even argue that it can also prove inspirational (one only has to watch a four minute clip on YouTube of Messi

or Zidane to feel the goose bumps). But most importantly, it is just the sheer enjoyment of watching the game they love being played at the highest level. I also truly believe that watching games can be an invaluable training tool for players as they start to get older and a little more experienced. They can now watch players who play in their position, follow their runs, see if they get caught out defensively, see how they play in relation to the players around them, and then, just maybe, a penny drops or a light bulb goes on and they say, “Oh! That is what coach was talking about at the last practice.” In short, watching soccer games can give players an incomparable visual aid to complement their own training sessions and games. This will hopefully lead to a deeper understanding of the nuances and intricacies of this complicated game, which, when you get to the older age groups and the higher levels, can make the difference between talented players and exceptionally talented players. One of the biggest compliments a coach can give a player is “that kid gets it.” The “it” factor is something that a small number of kids are just born with, but surely for everyone else it can still be developed? Think of older youth players watching soccer games and

actually learning from them as a precursor to what they will do at the collegiate and pro levels, where watching game film is a staple training principle. But wait a minute! What of the cries from all the parents out there who say, “Are you crazy? It is hard enough to get my kid off the XBOX to do their homework and now our coach is telling us that they need to watch more TV?” A very valid point to which my answer would be two fold. First off, watching a game should take the place of video game time. Maybe their coach can make a worksheet for their players to use while watching a game. Ask simple questions of the young players, more open-ended questions of the older ones. Secondly, there is always the option of going to watch live games. We are so lucky in Pennsylvania to have two professional franchises (the Philadelphia Union and the Philadelphia Independence), numerous high-level college programs and the best teams in the world coming to play at the “Linc” every summer. Take advantage of these opportunities! That way the kids are watching soccer AND getting off the couch! Maybe even getting a little bit inspired to boot…


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was nothing short of a success, win or lose, for the hundreds of teams that entered the competition, which lasted from January 8 to Feb 20. We saw topnotch soccer action from the Under-9 to Under-19 age groups who traveled throughout Eastern Pennsylvania to participate in the region’s most exciting indoor challenge. Thank you for the effort put forth by all the players, coaches and parents. It was fun!








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most coaches and league administrators have the players’ best interest in mind? After leaving US Youth Soccer’s annual Workshop recently I am beginning to feel the answer is a resounding, I don’t think they do. Every coach and administrator has access to U.S. Soccer’s “Best Practices” but after a bit of research and speaking to league and club administrators it must be the one document that very few people associated with soccer have read. Within our country, overscheduling is playing a major role in injuries, family conflicts, and forcing parents and players to make difficult choices. Three main leagues for top level players schedule matches at the same time as ODP events and to make matters worse, these three leagues are utiliz-

ing the same elite players. Two of these leagues often schedule two matches on one day, usually within a two to three hour period. Coaches and league officials who profess to have full knowledge of “Best Practices” turn a blind eye to players ages 12 and 13 playing up to three games a weekend and training two or three times a week. In addition, these same clubs are playing in two to three tournaments and competing in the national cup championships within their states from March until June. Possibly a greater cooperation in scheduling between club coaches, parents and ODP in meeting the needs of top players is necessary. There is no correlation between playing numerous matches and development. I am a strong proponent of children playing other sports and not making the decision to concentrate on one sport until around the age of 14. In fact, if you examine top American players in Major League Soccer you will find many played one or two other sports in high school in addition to playing soccer. Presently, club and league officials are now forcing children and parents to make the decision to play soccer and ignore the opportunities to play other sports. This procedure is now forcing other sports to follow soccer’s direc-

tion and concentrate on all year training. No one is going to mandate limiting the number of matches being played by children, the extensive schedules of individual teams for an entire year or the enormous cost to play soccer. Parents, your role is to decide what is best for your child. Give them downtime, allow them to play other sports, give them an appreciation for the arts. Emphasize the value of academics and how that affects their future a great deal more than scoring the winning goal in a meaningless match that will soon be forgotten. I was caught up in the whole soccer is life mantra with my own children and I have regrets that I did not provide opportunities for them to experience other ventures and downtime to be kids on their own terms. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a parent stating, “Soccer is my child’s passion,” but has it really become your passion, because somehow you assume your child will be left behind if he or she does not commit to playing soccer 12 months a year?”

You can read more from Director of Coaching Mike Barr in his daily blog at

When I was an instructor, at least one candidate at each course would come and tell me something to the effect of “I know I know the game, but didn’t realize what I didn’t know.” Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. ~Roger Lewin We have been working very closely with U.S. Soccer and US Youth Soccer on curriculum. We continually work on developing age and developmentally appropriate activities to teach the game. We also work diligently at the curriculum for the adults who will be teaching the game. Our state

level courses are designed to teach adults how to work with children, as much as they are about skills to teach and creative ways to teach them. A soccer game should played by the players on the field, not manipulated by the coach on the sideline. Training is for the coach, games are for the players. I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. ~Mark Twain As adults, time is a premium. Getting to a scheduled course isn’t always convenient. To accommodate our busy lives, we are working on additional educational opportunities. Within the

next year, we hope to have some of the course work online. Currently, we have videos and lesson plans on the website, the Coaching Handbook and DVD’s available from the office, and coming soon, a best practices document compiled by our staff with assistance from other nationally noted coaches. Our workshop last month offered some incredible sessions. Our coaching education staff is one of the best nationally. Whatever way you can – encourage your coaches to continue their education and help soccer in Eastern Pennsylvania continue to grow.



players are already there. • Challenge players to go through smaller gates where there is less space to control the ball. • Don’t allow players to go through the same gate more than once until they’ve gone through other gates. • Time the players to see how many gates they can dribble through in 1 minute. • Get their scores and challenge them to another minute of dribbling through the gates to see if they can beat their first score. • Place cone gates of various colors and sizes in an area about 30 yards x 40 yards. • Each player has a ball.

• Players dribble around the space going through the various gates while avoiding going to gates where

• Have players do a certain move at a gate. • Race to a number of gates completed rather than by time so for example the first player to get through 10 gates wins the race. • Have players go in a color sequence such as red, yellow, blue. • Close gates while players are dribbling by

• Players dribble around the grid and pass to players on the outside who pass back. Players must dribble through the square in the center be fore going to another player on the outside. • Time the players to see how many passes they can get in 1 minute. • Get their scores and either add them as a team or keep them as individuals. • Switch group on outside with group on inside after 1 minute. • Mark out a 40 x 30 yard grid with a 5 foot square in the center. • Spilt team in 2 groups: 1 on outside of grid and 1 on the inside of the grid. Each player on the inside has a ball.

• Start with the balls on the outside of the grid and have player run through the square in the middle, receive a pass and then pass back to the same player. • Same as above except have the players receive a pass, dribble through the square


either shouting out the color of gates that are closed or having coaches or players without soccer balls move around the grid and stand in open gates so players can’t pass through. • Add one or two defenders to knock balls away. • Make two teams so one is on attack and one is on defense and add up the number of gates per player on the attacking team and then switch roles to get a winner.

• Keep the ball close and under control • Use various surfaces of both feet to dribble the ball • Keep eyes up to find open space, open gates and to avoid teammates • Accelerate through the gates and to open space

and then pass it to another player. The player in the center of the square will then go to a different player with a different ball. • Add one or two defenders to knock balls away. • Have players on the outside toss the ball in like a throw-in so players on the inside can practice receiving the ball out of the air with their feet, thighs, head and chest.

• Use the inside of the foot with ankle locked and heel down with toe up when passing and receiving • Get body side-on and open to the grid when checking to receive a pass • Communicate so that players don’t end up with more than one ball at a time • Strike the center of the ball to keep it on the ground and place the non-kicking foot next to the ball towards the target for an accurate pass. • Get in the flight path of the ball when receiving balls out of the air

• Teams play 4 v 4 in the grid and try to score by passing to a teammate who is on the other side of one of the goals or getting 3 passes in a row. • Players can use the “neutral” players on the outside of the grid to keep possession. • Switch the team on the outside with one of the teams on the inside after about 3 minutes of play.

• Place a cone goal in each corner and a triangle cone goal in the center of a 50 x 40 yard grid • Make 3 teams of 4 and place 2 teams in the grid and one team as “neu trals” on the outside of the grid.

• Allow goals to be scored by dribbling or passing through the goals. • Make the goals worth different points. • Give the team who scores first more points. • Put the “neutral” team inside the grid.

• Players pass the ball to the open player across from them and follow their pass • Upon receiving the ball, the player dribbles through the “X” on a diagonal and plays the ball to the next person in line • Players can race against the clock or against players in another grid

• Mark out an “x” with cones and 4 corner cones in a grid 20 x 30 yards. • 2 – 3 players at each corner cone • 1 – 2 balls at two of the corners

• Keep attacking shape so there is width and depth • Give good angles of support and keep body open to the field • Move off the ball to get into open space and create goal scoring opportunities • Play the ball away from pressure and go to the goals where there are less opponents

• Keep the ball close and under control when dribbling • Accurate passes with good pace • Keep eyes up when dribbling through the “X” to avoid teammates • Good first touch towards the “X” to start dribbling to open space

• Use a throw-in instead of a pass so players receive the ball out of the air. • Race against the clock to see how long it takes everyone to get around the entire square. • Add a move at the first cone or vary the surfaces of the feet used to dribble through the cones.





Soccer Moms! Park your mini-vans and suburbans. Find someone else to be the head of the carpool group. Lace up your soccer shoes and get out on the field! Female soccer players need you to be their coach. You know who you are. You played club soccer. You starred for your high school team. You may have even gotten a scholarship to play soccer in college. There are a number of you out there now who played soccer growing up, and it is time to give back to the next generation of female youth soccer players. When I played youth soccer in the 1970s and 1980s, there were only dads who were my coaches and there weren’t even that many girls playing. So, for the first few years, I played on boys’ teams coached by dads. I was lucky enough to have a female coach for high school soccer for one season, but she was a field hockey player and didn’t know soccer so she was not very helpful. And even though most of the dads did not have any experience playing soccer either, they were the only ones who volunteered to coach my club teams. Moms were not welcomed onto the playing field unless they were carrying the oranges over to the team at halftime. And most moms had never played any sports growing up let alone played soccer. There are so many opportunities now for girls in sports and there are thousands of girls playing soccer in the United States. And because there are hundreds of girls’ soccer teams, there is a need for more coaches. Through an informal study I have done while coaching my own club teams for close to 15 years, I have found that there are very few female soccer coaches at the youth level. All too often I am coaching against an over-zealous “dad coach” who spends the entire game screaming at the girls, moving them around the field like chess pieces and displaying disgust with body language that you see from Major League Baseball coaches when the umpire calls the runner out when he was clearly safe. I

am not saying that all male coaches are dads and I am also not saying that they are all lunatics on the sideline. There are a lot of great male soccer coaches who also happen to be fathers, but that’s not my point. I’m inviting - heck I’m begging all former female soccer players to get back on the field and coach the girls. There are so many great reasons for girls to be coached by women. First off, they can be exceptional role models for young girls. Girls need to have female mentors who are leaders and successful in what they do. They need to see that females can coach and that they are as knowledgeable if not more knowledgeable than their male counterparts. I recently spoke with a coach of a girls’ team who commented that his players needed to have a female coach so they could see that a woman could control a group, be in a position of authority and be strong. Many females are stereotyped as nurturing and caring and too soft to be tough coaches who cannot drive players to success, but it simply is not true. Female coaches can be sensitive to girls’ needs and be supportive, but more importantly the can provide structure and discipline while commanding respect. Another great case for girls to be coached by women is that they can relate to them on various levels. So many male coaches ask me why girls talk so much and how can they get their players to pay attention. I say let them talk during the warm-up before training and games so they get it out of their systems. Female coaches understand how girls interact with each other and how their socializing can benefit a team or destroy team chemistry. Many men have been successful in figuring out how girls relate to each other and the coach. They have also figured out how to motivate girls and how to get the best out of them. But a female coach brings a different perspective in that she understands what it is like to be in a clique, their desires to be accepted by the group, self-esteem and self confidence, and what it is like to want to excel without tearing apart friendships in the process. So why aren’t there many female coaches in youth soccer? There are many barriers for women who want to coach. Often times they are competing against men for the positions who either have more experience or the perception of people who are placing men in the positions because they believe they are more qualified simply because they are men. Even within our


own clubs and organizations, there are people who do not think women can be good coaches. So the jobs go to the male coaches. For instance, a woman (yes, a woman) who is involved with girls’ soccer at a very high level stated that there are only a couple of good female coaches in the country and that females should be coached by men as they are the best. In addition, many men have taken advantage of becoming licensed coaches and therefore more opportunities are available to them. One would most likely suggest that the women just go take the coaching courses and get licensed, but there are barriers within that system, as well. Aside from the fact that there are very few women in the coaching courses which are largely attended by men, the women who do take the courses at the higher levels often feel like they are not welcome there. Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer encourages women to take the courses so they can coach and feel confident about what they are teaching. We want to eliminate the obstacles that prevent women from attending coaching schools. In my experiences taking courses, however, I seem to be one of very few women in the course. In my USSF “B” License for example, I was one of 6 females in a course with 75 coaching candidates. At Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, we are making every effort to get female coaches involved in our Olympic Development Program (ODP) and we will also be offering female-only coaching courses in the near future. Either way, we want to have females involved in coaching and hope to see more of them enroll in our coaching courses. If you are a former female soccer player, I am talking to you! It is fun to work with the girls and they need you. So what are you waiting for? Register for a coaching course. Volunteer to coach a team. I can’t wait to see you on the field coaching the girls.

You can read more from Assistant Director of Coaching Danielle Fagan in her daily blog at

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ne of Eastern Pennsylvania’s own was recently elected to one of the most prestigious positions in American soccer. Bloomsburg University’s head men’s soccer coach Paul Payne was elected as the 63rd president of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). Not only does Payne keep Eastern Pennsylvania represented in the upper ranks of the largest soccer coaches’ organization in the world, which has more than 30,000 members who coach both genders at all levels of the sport, but he will also have a platform on which to work on many grassroots projects. Prior to becoming its president, Payne was the NSCAA’s vice president of education for three years as well as serving as an NSCAA national staff coach for 13 years. So, he knows a thing or two about the ways the organization is recognized throughout the country. “The big thing I hope to accomplish this year is to grow our membership and grow our programming,” said Payne. “We have identified that this needs to happen at the youth coach level. You can only go so far at the college level and the pro level. There is a saturation point. I think we are going to have our biggest impact at the local level with the youth coach. What we really hope to do this year is set the stage for future years and expand our programming to meet that demand of the youth coach market.” Much of Payne’s mission in youth coaching derives from his own philosophy in the way he drives his team at Bloomsburg. Payne is entering his 12th season with the Huskies and is its all time leader in career wins. “My coaching philosophy is about having fun,” said Payne. “My guys go out to practice and we have fun. It is competitive and intense, but we have fun. You have to have some dynamic change in the way you approach things. The game is different from what we saw 20 years ago. We are seeing better and more skillful players, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in the skill we forget that you still have to play the game. At the end of the day I don’t care who are working with. You have got to have fun.” Even with fun at the heart of the equation for Payne, he does demand certain qualities in his players. He identifies four types of athletes: • Those who watch things happen • Those who wonder what just happened

• Those who think they make something happen • Those who make something happen “I want the players who make something happen,” said Payne. “You can have a bunch of kids who are unbelievably skillful, but they don’t have the desire to go hard for a 50/50 ball. What good is that? You want a combination of everything ideally. I think personality and psychological make-up is huge. It is not always the most gifted player that makes the difference.” Payne’s success at the helm of Bloomsburg’s Huskies comes by a wealth of experience in soccer at all levels. He played collegiately at Kutztown University and among his first coaching jobs were stints at Conestoga and Wallenpaupack area high schools. He later went on to become head coach of The University of Scranton’s men’s team before moving to Bloomsburg University. “There is a big difference between coaching and playing. When you play you are only wrapped up in your own game and what is around you. As a coach, you are responsible for everyone and managing personalities. That is coaching. Anybody can get an activity out of a book or watch a session and write it down. It is about managing personalities so that everyone is on the same page and productive.” Payne has a young team this year with no seniors. None-the-less, he believes in his players and maintains that experience is on their side. “We will come out and play hard. Soccer is a cruel game and our conference, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), is competitive in every match that is played. We will go out and play 90 minutes hard, and that is all I can ask of these kids. I have a great group of young guys. Winners find ways and losers find excuses. The coaches in the PSAC are a good group of people who really care about the college game. It is a solid competitive NCAA Division II conference, and it keeps me and our players competitive.” Payne would like to see the game more accessible to a wider group of young men and women during his term as president of the NSCAA and as a coach at Bloomsburg. Soccer, he advocates, should not just be a game for the select few and should not always come down to the club you are playing for. “This game should be available to everyone. There is a wealth of talent out there that isn’t exposed to the game because of location, financial reasons or culture. When you drive by a park and you see it filled with inner-city families you have to ask yourself, ‘Why are we missing these folks?’ There is too much emphasis on the clubs. Good players are going to be seen. College coaches are savvy enough that they are not going to just get wowed by what club a player was with.”


Payne acknowledges that even when a coach is “wowed” by a player the scholarship money that some parents and players are under the impression exists in collegiate athletics today won’t necessarily be there. In the end, the school itself has to be the major factor. “It has to be about the overall experience of college, and academics have to come first when it comes to scholarships,” said Payne. “There has to be a sense of reality for players and parents that it can’t just be about the scholarship, because it is so limited. It is a tough message to get through, and the reality is that there is not a lot out there. I would love to have more scholarships, but the reality is that we don’t.” There is some irony in Payne’s views on soccer. Though he is at the top of the pyramid as far as leadership goes for the NSCAA and Bloomsburg’s soccer program, he is not necessarily one to advocate for intense structure when it comes to the game and how youth play it. Sometimes leadership develops from no structure at all. “What I have seen lacking over the years is a sort of leadership quality,” said Payne. “There is not enough pick-up where kids just go down to the park and play 3v3. Everything is so structured now, and it is tough to develop those leadership skills. The kids are more technical, but I don’t know if they really understand the game as well as they need to because maybe they are not playing enough of that pick-up and are instead being told what to do.” Payne has taken his passion for soccer to another level lately, and it is one that he plans to push quiet actively while he is president of the NSCAA. It is the fight against cancer. Payne lost two dear friends to cancer, one of them Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer’s own Charlotte Moran. The other Joe Bochicchio, the long time women’s coach at The University of Scranton who gave Payne his start in college coaching. Not one to sit on the sidelines, he wanted to do something that could make a difference. In 2009 he formed the Red Card Cancer program to raise awareness of cancer and how it touches so many lives. This past fall Red Card Cancer partnered with the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Research Center to expand this program nationally. “I started thinking that maybe as a soccer community we could do more than just worry about wins and loses. So I developed this idea knowing that becoming president of the NSCAA might help to grow the program.” So far, the Red Card Cancer program has raised nearly $20,000. You can read more about this organization on their website at


hen 30-year-old coach Rachel Gallegos was an undergraduate at Clemson University she realized that her childhood aspirations to become a professional soccer player weren’t going to pan out. She was fulfilling a dream to play in the ACC, but something for this California native wasn’t clicking. “I was not a superstar by any means, and competing in the ACC you get a pretty good picture of what the soccer landscape looks like at that level,” said coach Gallegos. “It wasn’t the physicality of it, but the mental and emotional work you had to put in was never anything I had considered. That sort of inspired me to take my career in a different direction.” Coach Gallegos entered law school at Villanova University and played intramural soccer during the week to relieve the classroom pressure. She graduated in 2006 and eventually went on to become a law clerk for Judge Annette Rizzo in Philadelphia. But coach Gallegos couldn’t shake the soccer bug. She had done some coaching back in high school for a recreation team and had fond memories of it. She searched the Internet for a club in Eastern Pennsylvania that she could join and soon found Lower Merion. She started working with the then Under-13 Girls team “Strikers” as an assistant coach to get her feet wet and then the following fall took on the responsibilities as the head coach of the Under-9 Girls “Crush” while still assisting with the “Strikers.” Today, coach Gallegos is the head coach for the U-12 “Shock” and still continues to work with the U-16 “Strikers.” “I still had a lot to add to the game because of

my experience as a player,” said coach Gallegos. “Kids are just so enthusiastic. It’s not a job for them. It is something that they really enjoy doing.” Coach Gallegos fell back into the groove of coaching quite easily. She was able to identify with the girls she was instructing and saw leading them on the field to be an opportunity to not only work on the fundamentals of the game but also on skills that would help them to navigate through life. “What I find in coaching girls is that you have to focus on giving them confidence and help them understand what type of player they are and what type of player they could be,” said coach Gallegos. “They need to have confidence and they need to be able to compete no matter where they are or what they are doing in the classroom or in the job setting. The soccer field is a great way to start developing those skills. The excitement I get is watching players grow into confident human beings who are going to contribute to the world.” “Rachel is the quintessential female role model for girls in sports,” said Danielle Fagan, assistant director of coaching for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. “She exemplifies how a woman can have a great career and balance that with giving back to the community as a youth soccer coach. And it doesn’t stop with just being a coach as Rachel wants to be great and thereby continues to educate herself on how to teach the game and be the best coach for her players.” Coach Gallegos recently earned her U.S. Soccer “C” license through a coaching education course with Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer and was asked to join the Olympic Development Program

(ODP) staff. For Gallegos, the courses and the ODP involvement are part of her own commitment to continue her coaching education and a platform to advocate for more coaches to get trained. “One of the best ambassadors for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer are the coaches who are enjoying their time,” said coach Gallegos. “I always tell people that you don’t have to jump in and take over a team. Be an assistant coach for a little while and see how you like it. It is like any other career. It is about building your base and building your foundation and it is a phenomenal way to do that.” Coach Gallegos is steadily building a coaching style that transcends wins and looses. She is focused on building upon a framework of soccer fundamentals with her kids. “My coaching philosophy does not change no matter who I am coaching. Before the game I have my players tell me one thing they want to improve upon during the game. After every game with my club team I have them tell me the things they did well. I don’t talk to them about the score or how many goals we scored. I also have a big meeting with the parents and I tell them that I am not concerned with how many games they win this year. We are concerned about becoming better as individual players. If you, as the coach, are focused on individual development they will respond to that. It’s about the coach focusing on the right things in practice and talking about the right things before and after the games.” Soccer has been a big part of this coach’s life. She will be the first to tell you that she learned a great deal about who she is from her own experiences on the field. “My fondest memories are on the soccer field. That is where I learned how to compete. I learned what kind of player I am when I am winning and what type of person I am when I am losing. My character was built on the soccer field. I have had a great deal of success both on the field and in the classroom and I want to be able to give that back to other people. I enjoy the kids and families that I work with. It is a great use of my time. Quite frankly, I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t on the soccer fields on the weekends.”

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outh players come to the YSC Sports complex in Wayne, Pa., with hopes of becoming the next Landon Donovan or Mia Hamm. And it is encouraged. After all, what is wrong with having heroes? Nothing, according to YSC founder Richie Graham. “The connection to heroes is so critical,” said Graham. “In the United States we need to be more proactive in terms of connecting kids to the heroes of the game. How

do we inspire kids to fall in love with soccer?” Graham, a former Dartmouth College player, was inspired to build YSC after attending a European championship match in 2004 with his children. “The kids were alive with the energy of the stadium,” recalled Graham. “I started thinking about how we could bring some of this energy back to youth soccer.” So Graham set out upon the world to study the ways of various youth academies. He was looking at what these schools were doing in terms of player development. But the objective wasn’t to copy someone else’s model but to bring elements of it back to the states. “Every culture is different,” said Graham. “What works in Germany doesn’t necessarily work here. You have to look at it and think about which elements will be a fit.” At the helm of YSC Graham would entrust Iain Munro, a former professional player from Scotland and England and holder of a UEFA Pro-License. As the center’s director, Munro had no illusions as to what the


main mission of YSC was to be. “Our objective is not to make professional players or college players because if that was our objective we would fail 99% of the time,” said Munro. “Our objective is to give kids a better understanding of the game and more enjoyment from the game.” Graham and Munro certainly don’t advocate an end to competition at the youth level. They would be proud to produce national and professional level players. But at the younger ages it shouldn’t be a focal point. “One of the biggest problems in U.S. soccer right now is that there is too much emphasis on results at too young of an age,” said Graham. “We believe that the game should be fun and the kids should enjoy themselves and through that enjoyment they are going to want to play more, and the more they want to play the better they are going to become.” “Coaches can only maximize a player’s potential,” said Munro. “A kid’s potential can be unlimited. Sometimes they don’t know what their potential is. But all we can ever do is drive them to that. No matter who you are there is always an avenue open for you in soccer.”



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field. It got her through ODP tryouts, which, according to Kyleigh, forced her to play on an entirely different level. “The tryouts got a little complicated,” said Kyleigh. “It really made you think about what you were doing. There was also a little bit of pressure because you were thinking, ‘Am I going to make it or am I not?’ ODP has made me try a lot harder and taught me a few things like to relax and play my regular game. Don’t go off and play somebody else’s game. Play your game.” Kyleigh fell in love with soccer at the age of five. Her father played in high school, and the two can often be caught in front of the television watching leven-year-old Kyleigh Balint is a pistol. She a game or two. Kyleigh was instantly attracted to the is every coach’s dream and every opponent’s friendships she was able to form with her teammates. worst nightmare. She made the cut recently She took to the game as a natural and maintains a in the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer rigorous practice routine that she has developed for Olympic Development Program (ODP) pool, and this herself by her own desire to succeed in the game. youngster out of the Muncy Valley, Pa., area could “I am always trying to practice with the ball as much hardly contain herself when she found out she made as I can,” said Kyleigh. “I have noticed that doing that it. According to her ODP coach, Anita Valerio, it should gets me much better. If I didn’t have that kind of prachave come as no surprise. tice I wouldn’t have made it this far. Becoming a profes“The first time I met her she was just unbelievsional soccer player and my family are my motivating able,” said coach Valerio. “She was one of those forces. It’s going to take more work in the backyard to players you love to watch. She was just always take soccer further.” involved. You knew that she had something in her Kyleigh’s parents, like many soccer parents, are comthat made her want to play. Technically she is great mitted to seeing their children pursue their dreams, for an 11-year-old. She has great footwork, and she even though they know at a young age it is more is versatile. She just wants to play.” important for them to find enjoyment in the game than Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer’s Olympic drive themselves into the ground pursuing a profesDevelopment Program identifies and trains players at sional career. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen for the elite level. ODP provides Kyleigh. This self-desupplemental training and scribed juggernaut says competitive opportunities her speed and skills for players with the goal of separate her from the advancement to US Youth rest on the field and has Soccer Region I teams and parents willing to drive ultimately, national team seall across Pennsylvania lections. Several players have for her to play with her gone on to play professiontravel team, the “North ally and have represented the Union Lady Cannons.” United States in the Olympics However, through and World Cup. extensive efforts made ODP Coach Anita Valerio “Kyleigh is naturally athby Eastern Pennsylvania letic and very competitive,” Youth Soccer, the logissaid her mother, Lorie. “She is tics of participating in outgoing and she pushes herself all by herself because ODP have been made easier on families like Kyleigh’s by she is so competitive. She has her own inner-drive.” stretching into regions like North Central Pennsylvania, That inner-drive is something Kyleigh holds dear to which, in turn, has made it easier for coaches like Anita her, not only for hard-hitting interviews like this one for Valerio to get players like Kyleigh noticed. Touchline (ha-ha) but more importantly for the soccer “In this region, where soccer isn’t too big, to see


“The first time I met her she was just unbelievable…She was one of those players you love to watch…You knew she had something in her that made her want to play.”


“ODP has made me try a lot harder and taught me a few things like to relax and play my regular game. Don’t go off and play somebody else’s game. Play your game.” Kyleigh Balint

a player like Kyleigh is rare,” said coach Valerio. “She needs to be amongst good players that will keep pushing her. She is above average for her age. Tactically she has some things to learn, but that will come with experience. She wants to learn so badly, and I know that she will pick up those things easily. It is players like Kyleigh that need the ODP program. To see a player like that come out of this area makes you wonder how many other players like that haven’t been seen yet. She is being coached by coaches who wouldn’t normally see her.” Kyleigh says that at a recent travel game a coach from the other team approached her after the match and asked for her autograph because he said one day she was going to “shine.” Kyleigh was not bashful about taking a compliment like that, and she is not one to shy away from the challenges that are ahead of her if she does indeed pursue a course to the professional ranks. Part of that course has been set by ODP. “ODP will take you places and will give you a pretty good chance of accomplishing what you always wanted,” said Kyleigh. It is my dream to play professional soccer. I have the right parents dedicated to take me. I have my little brother, Emery, to help me out and I have my inner-drive. When I get something worked up, I don’t stop. It is very addictive to me. It catches on to me real quick.” I will take an autograph as well.


hen Tori Weiss was five, her mother, Michelle, signed her up to play intramural soccer for the Warrington Soccer Club. Tori’s father, Rick, didn’t know a thing about soccer but went to the games and was supportive of his daughter’s efforts on the field. But when Tori’s team was in need of a replacement coach in the middle of the season, someone had to step up to the plate. Rick, owner of a construction company, thought to himself, “Do I really want to come home after a long hard day and coach soccer to a bunch of young kids?” Thankfully, for the kids and for Rick, the answer was yes and they all continued to learn the game together. “I had no prior experience with soccer at all when I took over Tori’s team,” said Rick. “When Tori joined Warrington soccer it is was my first entry into it also. I think one of the good things about the intramural program is that Tori and I were able to grow together learning the game. Passing on what I learned became easier as the Warrington Soccer Club grew in size and commitment. The club started to offer training in the form of clinics and symposiums for both coaches and players. The club really took a leap forward by adding Pat Lordi as our director of coaching. Now coaches and players in either the intramural or travel programs could get all the training they wanted by attending the clinics and taking advantage of the coaching certification classes offered by the club. The commitment by the club to the game made me a

better coach which made for a first rate intramural Program for Tori and I to play in.” “It was weird at first having the coach be your dad, but as I got older I got use to it,” said Tori. “My dad makes the practices fun. We always play a game at the end. We actually learn something from it.” Rick stuck with the intramural coaching, so much so that he went on to get his U.S. Soccer “D” license, became a Board member for the Warrington Soccer Club and has even started coaching his younger daughter Emily’s Under-13 travel team. This begs the question, how does Rick switch between coaching intramural and travel? “Coaching intramural is certainly less stressful,” said Rick. “However, I don’t short my intramural team in their training by any means. They get the same type of training as with my travel team. But with my travel team it is a little more demanding. When I do an intramural practice I like to make it more fun and user-friendly. With travel, everyone has the understanding that we are there to be competitive. So, the practices are a little bit stricter and I demand a little bit more. But that doesn’t lessen my demands for an intramural practice. Regardless, it should all be about technique, ball skills, team bonding, play, interaction with each other and psychological growth at the younger ages.” Tori, now 18 and a senior at Central Bucks South High School, still plays soccer for her Warrington intramural Under-19 team coached by her father. She had thoughts over the years of switching to a travel team but always felt at ease with intramural and formed lasting friendships over the years with her teammates. It has simply been a natural fit for her. “I have stayed involved with intramural soccer for all these years because it is something that I can do with my dad, and I love being outside and playing a sport. To be able to relieve stress on the field is fun. It is exciting. I did consider moving to travel


soccer but figured why give up the friendships I made in intramural soccer and it is fun and kind of stress free. Sometimes it gets serious at tournaments, but other than that it is all for fun.” Tori and her father recently found another way to stay connected through soccer when Warrington put out the call for volunteers to officiate at some of the younger games. The Weiss duo was all too happy to help out. But this father/daughter team stepped it up a notch when certified refs were needed for the older age groups. The two enrolled in referee courses together, studied together and took the exams together. Now they officiate together as Grade 8 Referees. “I appreciate the refs a lot more because you can kind of say that I was the problem child on the field,” said Tori. “When I started officiating I realized how hard it was to keep your eyes on all the players on the field. It is difficult being able to make the right calls, having your own judgment and then especially when the coaches yell at you because of a call you made. But it has helped me as a player because I understand the rules of the game and all of the laws. I have better judgment over the things I do on the field and how I act.” “Being a referee makes you a better soccer player,” said Rick. “I notice that as a coach. “ Rick and Tori have already started the next chapter in their soccer saga. Tori is an assistant coach for Rick’s travel team “The Strikers.” Rick says there may be another coach in the works here. For Tori, she just keeps it simple. “It’s just fun. It is all for fun.”

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t was a little more than two years ago that Heather Gedney was brushing six-year-old daughter Devon’s hair when she noticed a small bald spot on the pee-wee soccer player’s head. At first, Heather didn’t think anything of it, but the spot continued to grow bigger over time. She and her husband started poking around on the Internet and soon learned of a condition called Alopecia Areata. A local dermatologist confirmed it. According to the Children’s Alopecia Project, Alopecia Areata is classified as an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, the tiny cup-shaped structures from which hairs grow. This can lead to hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere. In most cases, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. In many cases, the disease does not extend beyond a few bare patches. Sometimes it is more extensive. There is every chance that the hair will re-grow. But it can also fall out again. Alopecia Areata is not life threatening but can lead to social awkwardness and emotional dilemmas. Devon was about to grow up fast. “Devon is very gentle and kind,” said Heather. “She has that nurturing aspect about her that comes through when she is playing with little kids or adults. People call her Mother Teresa. As you

can imagine, girls and their hair is something that is very important to them.” No one in Devon’s West Chester, Pa., family had ever showed signs Alopecia Areata. Devon’s older sister, Maddy, and younger sister, Payton, have no symptoms. Devon had a passion for soccer and this challenge was not about to stop her from playing. Now nine-years-old, she was able to join a travel team, the West Chester United Soccer Club “Pride.” But the question remained, how to address the Alopecia? Devon had now lost much of her hair. Would the other girls on the team make her feel awkward or would they accept her? It was around this time when Devon was considering wearing a wig that she attended a birthday party at a store called “Bling it On” where you can decorate various articles of clothing with any kind of embellishment. Devon immediately took to the idea of fashioning herself a bandana with her own special branding. That was what she wanted. A simple piece of cloth with some sparkles and color was exactly what her heart was set on. Devon was not hiding her head; she was, in fact, now calling attention to it. It was time for the team to weigh in. According to Devon’s coach, Natalie Capuano, Devon had the chops to cut it on field just like any other player. So, it wouldn’t come down to her ability as an athlete. “She is a great player, and I can put her any place on the field,” said coach Capuano. “She is one of the most reliable kids on the team. I know she will hustle. She is a very difficult defender to get around. I could see from the first time she came out that she was quick.” “At first people thought it was a cool look for her to go out on the field with the bandana wrapped around her head,” said Heather. “It is when she would continue to where it to practices and to games that the questions began. Devon can be shy in new situations. She has been fortunate in that she has a group of friends who have always been involved in soccer with her that have sometimes deflected the questions. We have been working with Devon to say, ‘Hey, I have Alopecia and this is what it is.’” “She is a fun kid to be around, and she always keeps you on your toes,” said coach Capuano. “The other girls just embraced her. I never had to sit down and talk to the girls about her situation. All the girls get along. They are really a great group to work


with. I don’t look at her as being any different from anyone else on the team. She is just a joy to be around.” In talking to Devon over the phone, you encounter a shy girl who would rather talk about soccer and swimming (another sport she recently fell in love with) than Alopecia. But she is beginning to understand that she will, in some capacity, be a spokesperson for something she didn’t bring on herself, but has not held her back from doing anything. “People will compliment me on how the bandanas look, but they don’t really care about Alopecia,” said Devon. “Every now and then it comes up. It’s not really a big deal if people come up to me with questions about Alopecia.” Soccer has helped the Gedney family by giving their daughter the freedom to be a kid, which she, and all children, deserve without reservation or restriction. Like her signature bandanas, soccer is part of the fabric that makes up Devon. “The fact that soccer is a team sport has been a wonderful experience with the closeness,” said Heather. “These girls have formed friendships and are so excited after breaks between fall and winter to get back together again. It is the whole idea of being part of a team and fitting in.” Devon accepts that she is, in a purely cosmetic sense, different from the other children. But she is growing into that spokesperson role and helping to guide her family and others along the way. “Devon now does presentations at school about it and shows videos,” said Heather. “It has just made her amazing. We, as a family, have grown a lot in the past two years. Once you put it out there, people don’t even notice. They don’t even think about it anymore. There are girls who have started wearing bandanas to school to look like Devon. Her personality makes it a non-issue.”

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Top row starting on left: Asst. Coach Lisa Reinhart Emma Macaluso Kylie Machinski Camille Principe Megan Principe Alyssa Smith Isle Hassler Coach Mike Principe. Middle row starting on left: Allison Amodea Monica Wood Brianna Doherty Kendra Pekurny Kylie Herlihy Taylor Herlihy Cassidy Ryan Kendra Smiley. Mascot Row -left to right : Joe Herlihy Bill Ryan Tony Dunlap. Not pictured: Cheyenne Casady


arental support for their kids in sports (or any activity that they participate in) is vital to kids’ self-esteem. Memories of their parents always being there for them will remain throughout their lives. It is great to hear cheering and clapping on the sidelines during a game. But then there are those who take it just a step further. May I introduce you to Joe Herlihy, Tony Dunlap and Bill Ryan: the unofficial team mascots for last season’s Carbon United girls Under-13 team the “Ninjas” (also known as the “Ninja-Turtle-Gnomes”). First, let me start by explaining the team name. When pondering ideas for their name, the girls had a hard time agreeing on what it should be. Ideas included, “Ninjas,” “Ninja Turtles,” and “Lawn Gnomes” (they are a very creative and interesting bunch of girls). Amidst the confusion of what the actual team name should be, parent Joe Herlihy simply decided to make it easier on himself by calling them the “Ninja-Turtle-Gnomes.” They were a new travel team put together playing in Division II in the Lehigh Valley Youth Soccer League with girls from various school districts including, Panther Valley, Lehighton, Jim Thorpe and Palmerton. One day, flanked by parents Bill and Tony, Joe let

out a loud cry of, “GO NINJAS!” This was followed by Bill shouting, “TURTLES!” And Tony ended it with “GNOMES!” Upon hearing the laughter of the other parents of the team, the guys realized they were onto something and so the team chant was born. At various times through the games you could hear the guys calling out their parts as they cheered on the girls. One day, Joe, being the jokester that he is, thought it would be funny to play a joke on the other guys. He decided that they should all dress up according to their roles in the chant with Joe donning a ninja costume, Bill as a turtle, and Tony as a lawn gnome. Secretly, Joe had no intention of coming to the game dressed as a ninja but wanted to see if the other guys would so and then poke fun at them. The other guys were very game for this, but Joe, also being a kind-hearted soul, felt bad about playing a trick on them and dashed out to Walmart where he scored a clearance-priced ninja costume. I made Bill a “Ninja Turtle” costume (from the cartoon) and Tony pulled out a flannel and an inside out Santa hat, some jeans and boots and voila; instant gnome. At the next home game, Joe was waiting at the sidelines wearing his ninja costume- UNDER his


clothes – just in case the others chickened out. When he looked and spotted Bill and Tony, he saw that they were wearing their regular street clothes and felt a bit foolish. Then he realized they had their costumes on underneath just as he did. With that, they took off their coats, donned their hats and masks and stood proudly on the sideline. The parents laughed and laughed and when the team came by for their warm-up lap, the mascots ran along with them, bringing smiles to everyone. During the game, the guys called out their all familiar chant and even added some interesting motions to it. The ninja and the “Ninja Turtle” did some fancy karate moves while the gnome did what gnomes do best – stand perfectly still and erect. It was quite amusing. Even the referees seemed to enjoy it. The best, however, was yet to come. At the final game of the season, the guys had something very special planned for the team and its fans. During half time, the guys broke out a boom box, ran out onto the field and waited for the music to begin. To the 1980s tune “Apache,” Joe and Bill began to perform a dance made famous by Will Smith from the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” television show while Tony, the gnome, stood perfectly still in the middle until a point in the routine where he was magically brought to life by a tap on the head with a fairy wand and subsequently starting “busting a move” with the other two. The people on the sidelines howled with laughter and the girls had a hard time concentrating on the coach’s pep talk and instructions. The last half of the game seemed to go by so quickly and the victory attained by the girls was bittersweet. It was sweet because this wonderful group of girls ended the season with a co-championship in their league along with Nazareth Soccer Club. The team’s record was 8-1-1. It was bitter because it had come to an end. Before departing for home, the mascots and all of the girls got out on the field together to celebrate their victory with a final dance. It brought happy tears to my eyes to see the girls and those three silly dads out there doing the routine and then breaking out into some free style dance. The smiles on the kids’ faces were priceless and the rest of us parents stood on the sidelines and cheered them all on, as we always do and as we always will. As far as the “mascots” go, they would like to think that their love, support and crazy antics in some way encouraged the team to work hard, always do their best and to have fun playing a sport they love. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

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