The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
Sometimes the youth academy comes first and eventually out of that a professional club is born. In the case of the Kitsap Pumas it has worked the other way around. The Pumas came onto the scene in Kitsap County as an adult pro side in 2009 and since then have been building “downward” in age with their youth development programs.
This summer more blue and white hoop kits than ever can be seen on local soccer fields, and also lately standing on risers as tournament champions.
goalWA.net checked in with Pumas pro head coach and youth director James Ritchie to learn more about his club’s efforts with kids. See our Q & A session below.
GW: Describe the development and growth of the Pumas youth over the last couple of years. What is your structure / age levels / league and where do you want to eventually be?
James Ritchie: The Pumas have always been interested in helping progress the young soccer players in and around the Kitsap Peninsula.
We started off four years ago with our summer camps and they are still going strong today. We just completed this years camp schedule last week with over 50 player on Bainbridge island. 2012 has been our most successful year to date and we are looking forward to an even bigger year in 2013.
We also directed a number of academies in partnership with local clubs (Bremerton, Central Kitsap, North Kitsap, South Kitsap, Tracyton). to help develop and create a love of the game for their young players and coaches.
The Pumas also ran our own academies and college age teams to help identify the areas top future talent.
This year we have now taken it to the next level and created our own Pro-Youth Academy teams that will play and grow together under the club’s guidance for years to come. As this is our first year of having teams the club has started small with only five teams. We currently have two BU15′s, and one each in the BU13, BU10 and BU9 teams. These age groups will expand in 2013 and we are also looking to add girls teams to the program.
We will be taking part in the PSPL league and are looking forward to playing against some highly competitive teams.
The long-term goal is to progress our top players into good college systems. While at college we would like to place them in our reserve team over the summer and allow the most talented to practice with the first team or possibly even play with our indoor team. After college it would be great to see players feed into our first team or possibly even be drafted to MLS clubs.
How have the teams done this summer in tournaments?
The lads have done great. Both our U15′s teams and our U13′s won their championships at the Federal Way Blast Off last week.This was their first ever tournaments and I was very proud of the effort they gave. Also, our U10′s have taken part in two tournaments reaching the final in both. The U9′s took part in their first tournament this weekend. They did not make the final but had a great showing leaving undefeated, with one win and two ties against strong teams. We have some tough tournaments coming up. But, the players are looking forward to the challenge of playing strong opposition.
All the teams are so fun to watch play. They work very hard and just have so much fun. It’s great to have them be part of the club.
How do the players feel wearing the same kit the Pumas professionals do?
They love it. The youth teams are now a big part of the Kitsap Pumas family.
Not only do they get to wear the same kit at the first team, they get to interact with the players.
We have players that are on our youth coaching staff. But also on a number of occasions we have our players show up at games and practices to cheer on the lads and give them some words of wisdom about what it takes to progress in the game.
We even had all our youth teams be part of the team walk out (in full blue and white hooped kits) at our last home match against the Seattle Sounders U23 this year. Which was a really cool experience for them.
How does the youth program fit in with the overall philosophy of the club?
The Pumas were set up by Robin Waite in 2008 to provide great football to the sports fans and players of Kitsap. When I was brought into the club I wanted to find a way to make the club an even bigger part of the community than just the first team. I have always envisioned a youth system that feeds Kitsap youngsters into the first team. For the club to help develop the next batch of talent and give them the opportunity to live out their dream of trying to move on in the game. It would be great if we could develop the next batch of talent in the area. The academy is a multi-year investment in the development of these youngsters. It may be a number of years before we start to see the high-end players making it through tothe college and pro level. However, I feel the club has so much to offer young players and I am exited to see the academy grow.
List your coaches and what they bring to the program.
This year I have been coaching the U15′s with the help of Greg Miley (who has just returned home to England).
I am also the coach of the BU13′s.
Matt Friesen is coaching Our U10′s.
- Been with the Pumas since 2009
- First team co-captain and top scorer 2012
- PDL Allstar 2012
- Olympic College Assistant Coach
- 2011 Boys High School Coach of the year with North Mason HS.
Dustyn Brim is coach of our U9′s
- Been with the Pumas since 2009
- First team Goalkeeper and Assistant Coach
- Head Coach of the Kitsap Pumas indoor.
All our coaches have links to our first team.
This again helps us mentor the youngsters in what it takes to become pro athletes.
We will continue to have players and first team coaches work with the youth program.
The Pumas are also interested in bringing on a number of talented local coaches in 2013.