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Area benefits from Bartlett’s passion for soccer

Alex Bartlett, head coach of the Tyrone Area High School soccer program — which has a co-op deal with Bellwood-Antis — has always had a passion for soccer.

Bartlett, 24, was a standout high school player and has not only come back to his roots to lead Tyrone to two district championship games in his brief coaching tenure, but has jump-started the entire game of soccer in the region.

Bartlett is an elementary physical education instructor in the Tyrone School District and has initiated new instructional, travel and indoor programs in the area which never existed.

“I just want to give kids the opportunity to excel,” he said.

He currently has his national D license through the United States Soccer Federation but is pursuing his National C license this summer. He has initiated three youth travel teams in U10 and U12 age groups and is in the process of forming their own soccer club through the PAWest in the near future.

He is director of the youth soccer leagues at the Northern Blair Recreation Center, where numbers of children involved with soccer have skyrocketed under his leadership. He initiated a Little Kickers program in the spring, which had 187 players registered for the recreational outdoor program and a Pre-school Little Kickers program, currently maxed out at 30 players for 3- to 4-year-olds.

He had more than 90 players on his indoor soccer program. The outdoor Little Kickers program has 56 players taking part. He is doing a middle school camp and clinic and looking at a 3-on-3 tournament at the NBRC this summer as plans are in the works. There were about 130 youth players at all age levels involved when he took the reins of the program, and there are now approximately 235 players signed up for programs.

It is important to Bartlett that the game is not only fun for the youth, but that fundamentals of the game are taught properly. He has written practice plans for coaches to follow and holds numerous meetings with travel coaches to monitor progress. Bartlett’s passion for playing the game has transitioned over to his passion for coaching the game and getting youth involved with the growing soccer programs he has created in the Tyrone and Bellwood areas.

Wassell honored

Former Hollidaysburg standout goalkeeper and current Penn State women’s soccer assistant coach Tim Wassell will be among the first group of inductees into the Penn State Altoona first Hall of Fame class.

Wassell was the men’s soccer coach from 2004-05 and the women’s head coach from 2007-09. He had a large impact on the PSU Altoona programs both as a player and coach. He was a starting two-year goalkeeper, earning All-Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference and all-region honors each season and was the PSU Altoona Male Scholar of the Year in 2005.

After graduation, Wassell returned to coach the women’s program for three seasons, including leading it to its first-ever AMCC championship in 2008, where the Lady Lions went undefeated until a 1-0 loss in the NCAA tourney. Wassell is in his 11th year as a PSU assistant coach, where during his tenure, the team has won a national championship and numerous Big Ten titles. Wassell is in charge of working with the PSU goalkeepers, the defensive unit and is the primary recruiter. He may be a good candidate to be the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame’s first soccer inductee.

Elsewhere …

All area soccer clubs are underway with in- house, travel and Classic play. They have worked around all COVID-19 safety precautions and have not missed a game. The turnout of players from u-8 to u-19 has been very large for the spring season and so has the number of registered United States Soccer Federation referees in the various clubs with perhaps the exception of the Bedford Soccer Club.

Erick Seager, longtime referee, has served as the center referee for every home game the club has had. He has the support of his assistant referees (linesmen), but many weekends Seager will run stride for stride with the u-15 through u-19 boys and girls teams down the center of the field for more than four hours straight.

Seager was disappointed COVID-19 wiped out last season, so he was eager to get on his horse and go this spring. He has had every opportunity to make up for lost time and has been a fixture on the Crossroad fields.

Tom Schmitt writes a monthly soccer column for the Mirror.

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