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Riverhounds reach out to young players in Connellsville

| Monday, May 13, 2013, 12:31 a.m.
Rachel Basinger | for the Daily Courier
Pittsburgh Riverhounds strength and conditioning coach Mike Whiteman signs a ball for Connellsville's Ryan Reitler during the Riverhounds' visit to the Connellsville Soccer Club's Shallenberger Sportsplex on Saturday, May 11, 2013 in Bullskin Township.

Members of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds soccer team made their way to Bullskin Township Saturday morning for a soggy meet-and-greet at the Connellsville Soccer Club's Shallenberger Sportsplex.

While the plan was for the team to take part in a scrimmage and then sign autographs, the rain made the event very personal right away with everyone huddled under the concession stand area.

Ryan Reitler, 8, of Connellsville, is a member of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds' youth soccer program and was disappointed that the team he admires could not perform.

“But I'm excited that they are here and that we get to talk with them,” he said.

Riverhounds strength and conditioning coach Mike Whiteman said players and coaches frequently go into communities to talk to kids who have a passion for the sport.

“We want to try and market soccer in Western Pennsylvania,” he said. “We have the academy that works with us, so we're dealing with kids all the time.”

As for the rain, Whiteman said it just made for a more intimate setting.

“This is us in our element (talking with the kids),” he said. “This is very natural for us.”

Jason Kutney, player and owner of the Riverhounds, said their primary aim is to link up with kids “who are trying to reinvest in soccer, and that's what drew us here today.”

He added that the willingness of Terry Shallenberger, who is on the Connellsville Soccer Club board, to do what's needed to provide the local children the best opportunities in soccer is key.

From June 17-20, the Riverhounds will be back in the area to host a four-day program, and later this year they will be launching an indoor Riverhounds Academy in the area.

“We have had some small satellite sites, but this is really the first time we'll be branching out to start a more permanent satellite academy,” Kutney said. “(Shallenberger) has really made this possible with his interest in helping the children in the area and bringing the training to them.”

Shallenberger said he believes the players with the Connellsville Soccer Club need to take advantage of the kind of training offered by the Riverhounds Academy.

“The Riverhounds program is so in-depth. They do such a great job,” Shallenberger said. “Getting the kids to interact with the pro players really gives them incentive to keep going.”

While there are plans to erect an indoor arena at the Shallenberger Sportsplex site sometime in the future, Shallenberger said they do have a facility in Scottdale to use for the indoor academy later this year.

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