Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Success Begins at Early Age Youth Programs Fuel Bentworth

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Success Begins at Early Age Youth Programs Fuel Bentworth

Article excerpt

When Gary Amos took over the Bentworth boys soccer team 10 years ago, he brought on current second-year girls coach Tyler Hamstra as an assistant, and the two hatched a long-term plan.

Amos said the boys team had never made the playoffs until his tenure. And the girls team didn't even start up until 2006. While the school had great athletes, they weren't necessarily soccer players.

"The kids coming up didn't know the things they should know," Amos said. "Once they got to high school, they were trying to learn things for the first time."

To improve soccer at the high school, the coaches knew they had to start teaching kids at a younger age and thus became involved in the Bentworth Area Youth Soccer Association. That was where they first identified Chad Gurdish and Miranda VanKirk. Just sixth-graders at the time, Hamstra said he knew those two would be future players to build a team around.

Now as seniors, both Gurdish and VanKirk rank in the top five of leading scorers in the WPIAL - Gurdish with 18 goals and VanKirk with 20 goals heading into this week.

Both four-year starters, Gurdish has led the boys team into first place so far in Class A Section 4 at 8-1-0 (9-3-2 overall), and VanKirk's team is fourth in Class A Section 2 at 6-3-1 (6-5-1 overall).

"Both players have put the teams on their backs several times this year," Hamstra said. "Both of those players are definitely the cornerstones of both teams, for sure."

Gurdish and VanKirk play similar roles for the two teams as attacking midfielders. VanKirk, however, is a natural defender who Hamstra moved to the midfield because he needed a strong player in the playmaking role.

VanKirk said the whole team shuffled a lot after her sophomore season with many players graduating. And the players used that to their advantage instead of letting it hinder them.

"I think we grew because we learned how to work with what we had. Because . we're a really small school," she said. "I moved up, and everyone moved into different positions. And I think that actually helped because it took us out of our safety zone that we were always comfortable with. …

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