The ink is dry, and 25 members of the Riverhounds Development Academy (RDA) class of 2019 are officially committed to play collegiate soccer.
Players and their families were honored with a banquet on Tuesday at Highmark Stadium to celebrate their success. The players were individually recognized for their hard work, dedication and had the opportunity to officially sign their RDA graduate certificates.
Riverhounds SC Sporting Director Jason Kutney spoke on the importance of the Academy’s ability to produce players that are capable of playing at a college level.
“For us as an Academy, our goal has always been individual player advancement,” Kutney said. “Part of everything we do is how we can get them exposure to opportunities in front of college coaches. We can network for them, endorse them, be advocates for them, and then obviously on-the-field training to prepare them for that next level.”
Several of this year’s RDA graduates have been with the Academy since the program was in its infant stages, and Kutney has enjoyed watching the growth of the players on the field and as human beings.
“In many ways it can feel like a business when you just go year-to-year, form teams, go out and play tournaments, and play league games,” Kutney said. “The relationship side is the bigger piece of this. We always talk about the relationships between a coach and player, but really the relationships between our club and the players have been something that’s been very special and meaningful to us.”
Among those who have been with the RDA since the early days include Nathan Dragisich (Duquesne University) and Caroline Swan (Johns Hopkins University).
Dragisich, who earned 2018 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Boys Soccer Player of the Year honors, credits the RDA for molding him into the player he is today.
“I’ve trained with [RDA] for over 10 years, so my game’s basically just morphed from the Riverhounds Association,” Dragisich said. “It’s just been a pleasure to play with them for so long and keep in the program, and trusting what they teach as coaches. It’s brought me to where I’ve come today.”
The RDA played a major role in shaping Swan’s game as well. She noted as she progresses, there are many things she will carry over from her time with the Academy. The biggest lesson, though, is a number of drills she learned from her coaches.
“I definitely think all of the technical skills that we do, and little things off the field that you can do by yourself, like foot-work, working on your technique, and things like that never really go away and they always help on the field. I’ll always do that in college.”
The night was capped off with dinner, and players and coaches congratulated each other on the culmination of their time and effort. The RDA has become increasingly more successful as time has passed, and the class of 2019 is another example of this excellence.