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Local youth soccer partnership creates coaching experience for students

An introductory soccer program has provided real life training for 10 College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences coaching and performance sciences students. Raymond Kryzak, director, Mountaineer United Soccer Club, organized and led sessions for the Fundamentals soccer program, an eight-week introductory soccer clinic designed for three- and four-year-old children.

“Last year, we officially partnered with the Fundamentals program and plan to make the same connection in the spring of 2022. CPASS did their part by arranging the use of the facility to host the first coaching and training class in the Morgantown area,” Kryzak said.

The program strives to improve the foundation of soccer abilities and help children develop neuromuscular and psychological skills. Weekly clinics incorporate fundamentals in creative activities and games for the kids, who move through four stations to help build different proficiencies. “Over the past two years, we have grown the program. In fall 2021 more than 200 kids registered,” he said.

Kryzak, who earned his master’s in athletic coaching from CPASS, has remained in touch with his former professors, including Kristen Dieffenbach, associate professor and director, Center for Applied Coaching and Sport Sciences. Dieffenbach made the connection with the WVU Student Recreation Center for use of the fields and was the main point of contact to help recruit CPASS students. Valerie Wayda, associate professor and associate dean for undergraduate and academic affairs, and Peter McGahey, teaching assistant professor, offered guidance throughout the semester.

"We are grateful for the partnership with Mountaineer United. Ray's leadership and vision for their soccer program fits well with the philosophy of our ACE curriculum, which highlights on developing the whole person while using the long-term athlete development model," McGahey said.

The collaboration provides a valuable opportunity for ACE students to get involved and serve the Morgantown community. “Hats off to Ray for his willingness to provide a live classroom experience for our students. A key benefit for CPASS students includes opportunities to take lessons beyond the classroom and gain real world experiences,” McGahey added.

In addition to Mountaineer United Soccer Club and WVU Student Recreation Center, the collaboration involved critical support from the Center for Applied Coaching and Sport Sciences at WVU. The CACSS served as a focal point in developing the partnership in serving the youth sports community and enhancing CPASS student learning experiences.

“We are looking forward to continuing this partnership with Ray and Mountaineer United. In the future, we plan to develop partnerships with other community sports programs to provide learning platforms for our students," McGahey explained. 

CPASS students coached children throughout the season. “Their primary role was to make sure each kid enjoyed their time while helping them engage in the activities and making it a safe and positive environment,” Kryzak said. “CPASS students provided excellent coaching to the little ones. I saw them grow as coaches, come out of their shell and improve their talents. Ultimately, they began to understand how to best generate positive responses through fine tuning their engagement, energy level and coaching voice.”

Bailey Prewitt, senior, coaching and performance sciences, with minors in communications and personal training, interned with the Mountaineer United Soccer Club’s Fundamentals program. “For each practice, the kids were split into four groups. I was typically tasked with staying with one of the groups and coaching them through each drill to make sure they understood what they were doing and were having fun,” she said.

Prewitt, from Texarkana, Texas, says the experience helped her become a more well-rounded coach and adaptable to working with any age or ability level. “Prior to this, I had never worked with kids as young as three or four. It taught me that my approach to coaching should be ever evolving as all young athletes have different learning styles and need various abilities out of a coach,” she explained. “Teaching the fundamentals of a sport to kids who haven’t played before challenged my creativity and aptitude to think on my feet because kids can be unpredictable.”

Prewitt says she plans to continue her involvement in the program. “The parents, kids and other coaches all create a positive environment and are a joy to work with. Many of the coaches, including me, started the program because we needed a few volunteer or internship hours. Most of us ended up staying the whole season and plan to return because of how great of a learning experience it’s been,” she said.

Kryzak says that students have asked to continue with the program this spring. “They’ve been a huge benefit. Most of the interns were reliable and on point with their efforts,” he added. “Ultimately, every student learned important coaching skills and how to work with young kids. Many top-level coaches must understand how to coach kids. Numerous area elite coaches such as Peter McGahey, Nikki Goodenow, Andy Wright and Nick Noble have taken time out of their busy lives and coached at Mountaineer United Soccer Club."

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