Paul Halford, director of coaching for the PA West Soccer Association, is responsible for hundreds of teams and thousands of players.
Yet he found time in his cramped schedule to come to our community last week to do an outstanding clinic with local freshmen and sophomore players from the local area.
Halford is of the belief that nothing is more important than player development, and even though our number of PA West registered players is very small in comparison to the Pittsburgh area, Halford was eager when contacted to come to the area and provide players and coaches alike with some excellent skill drills they could take with them during the course of his creative clinic.
As the spring soccer travel season finally comes to a close, there are some kudos that must be handed out to several outstanding teams and players.
n The Altoona girls U-19 travel team played this spring season without many of the players on the Altoona High roster and had a very young group of girls. The team went throughout the course of the season without dropping a game.
At the start, when Altoona was in search of a goalie, Stephanie Hippo, an AAHS distance runner, stepped into the goal for Altoona and played extremely strong and consistent for the Lions. Her basketball background proved a huge plus as she learned by getting a baptism under fire throughout the course of the season but was key in keeping her team undefeated.
n Coach Jamie Cheers' U-15 Altoona Soccer Club-based boys were the only team from the area to play up into Division 1 in the PA West and went on to capture their division with some huge wins over extremely strong Pittsburgh and West Virginia-based teams. The boys from this squad should prove to be an extremely strong addition to the upcoming Altoona High boys team, which lost the meat of its lineup to graduation.
n Some young superstars emerged in the Altoona girls U-12 team under coach Eric Hough as these extremely strong young girls worked together like a well-oiled machine, crushing all regional competition. It is time, however, for these girls to move to a higher level of play, either Division A or Classic as they will get little or no benefit by continuing to play competition at the Division B level.
The FIFA Confederation Cup must have made all sports fans sit up and take notice of USA soccer as it advanced to the finals of the Cup in an unlikely, never-say-die fashion before falling to powerful Brazil, 3-2, in the finals.
The U.S. started Cup play looking extremely shaky and on the verge of elimination. But, with some help of other teams in its bracket, it managed to seize the opportunity and pull off one of the biggest upsets of all time with a 2-0 shutout of the No. 1-ranked team in the world, Spain.
Spain, prior to this, had a record run of 13 straight Cup victories. Most importantly, this demonstrates how far a never-say die-positive attitude can take you.
Tom Schmitt's soccer column appears monthly in the Mirror.