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Kittanning soccer clinic fosters growth

| Sunday, June 15, 2014, 11:45 p.m.

As the World Cup rolled through its first weekend, a group of local girls also got a chance to get out on the soccer field.

The Kittanning varsity girls soccer program hosted a one-day clinic for girls in younger grades in the school district Saturday morning at Lenape Tech as the program aims at continued growth entering its third year since being restarted.

The current high school players and coach Crystal Heder provided instruction at the clinic, which consisted of individual skill stations and a day-ending 3-on-3 tournament that mixed the girls of all ages.

“We were fortunate with the weather, though our field was still pretty wet,” Heder said. “We divided the girls up by age, and each of my (high school) girls worked with one group at a time. We rotated them through so that they got to work with everyone. The kids had a great time, and I think my girls loved the opportunity to coach.”

As the only girls soccer team in Armstrong School District, Kittanning's team also draws players from West Shamokin and Ford City. For that reason, the clinic was open to girls from all of the district's elementary and junior high schools in an effort to raise interest and awareness about the relatively new team that will transition into an Armstrong High School team in 2015-16.

“This was very important to us because it shows we care about getting out in the community,” Heder said. “At the end, we told the young girls that this could be you on the varsity team down the road. They were excited to hear that, which is good because a lot of people are still unaware that we even have a Kittanning girls team.”

The weekend clinic drew 20 participants, which Heder said was a good number for their first attempt at such an event. The coach said she hopes future clinics will draw even more participants, and that will help find prospective players for a program that is without a true youth feeder system.

“We wanted to reach out to all areas (of the district), and because it went so well, we want to do more. We really want to build excitement for our team, and we gave all the young girls a (varsity) schedule and invited them to come be ball girls at our games,” Heder said.

Heder has nearly her entire varsity roster from last year coming back for 2014, and she hopes the program is starting to build a future player base.

With the World Cup also in progress, an opportunity exists to build the sport locally. Though volleyball has long been the top fall girls sport in Armstrong School District, Heder hopes that more current high school girls will give soccer a try this season after seeing it so widely covered this summer.

“Soccer isn't the main sport here, but when you see it on TV all the time this summer, maybe it will catch the attention of some kids who haven't played,” Heder said. “I definitely anticipate bigger numbers coming out for the team this year.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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