This spring has ushered in perhaps the busiest soccer season for travel teams since their inception.
Boys and girls travel brackets from U-8 to U-19 are packed, and every certified referee is hustling from game to game each weekend. There is, however, a new twist to the 2009 spring season, which provides a great deal of player development along with bringing some very talented and popular players into the Altoona area.
Bishop Guilfoyle head girls coach Cheryl DePaolis has pulled some magic from her hat. Through her job at Penn State University she has managed to bring the PSU women's soccer team to the BG soccer fields on Sunday, April 19 for a 1-3 p.m. clinic for girls ranging in age anywhere from 6-18.
PSU head soccer coach Erica Walsh was a coach from the gold medal U.S. Women's Olympic Team. The Lady Lions are assured to bring at least half, if not more, of their entire squad as they plan to have one player for every 10 girls registered to attend. There is no admission for the clinic, but there will be a raffle held to benefit the Lady Lion Booters' trip to Brazil.
Coach DePaolis hopes to make this an annual event at Bishop Guilfoyle with numbers of players continuing to grow. This is the first time a free clinic of this magnitude has taken place in the area.
Huge congratulations are in order for soccer phenom Taylor Vladic of Hollidaysburg Area High School. Being named one of the top 20 players in your age bracket is truly the highest of honors.
As my youngest daughter played for Taylor's father, Mike, on their Division 1 travel squad, I had the opportunity to watch Taylor Vladic grow as a player and a fine young lady. She has traveled to Pittsburgh several days a week for years, bolting for practice immediately after school, doing homework in the car, routinely along the four-hour round trip, and putting in two to three hours of practice. It was nearly impossible to catch her without a ball at her feet.
Aspiring young players should realize that Vladic has dedicated her life to the game, and it has meant thousands of hours of travel, practice and play over the dozen years she has played.
Best of luck to Vladic on whatever path her efforts take her, be it playing abroad, a Division I scholarship, a chance at the Olympics or a career in the professional ranks.
On a heartbreaking note, deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of 19-year-old Scott Garlick, a senior at Hollidaysburg Area High School and a member of the Golden Tigers soccer squad, who was tragically and fatally shot in a hold-up at the Subway restaurant where he worked.
Garlick was respected and admired immensely by coaches, fellow players, friends and colleagues. He typified the finest example of a student-athlete, and his loss will be felt not only in the soccer community, but by all who were fortunate enough to know him.
Tom Schmitt's soccer column appears monthly.