As we kick off this year's Winter Indoor season I would like to share with you some updates that have happened this off season. We are now Award Winning! We have been awarded 2022’s Best Youth Organization by the city of Bridgeville! A wonderful surprise and recognition of excellence from our players & coaches.
When I started as assistant coach with the club in 2010 we had 7 athletes, two of which are coaches today (Coach Emily & Coach Rambo), in Winchester Thurston’s gym with tape goals to shoot at for two hours on Sunday morning’s. Then going to tournaments and getting beat by 20 goals each game. Today 12 years on our programming spans the entire week with all levels being catered for from beginners to the game to graduating NCAA athletes. Now when we go to tournaments, we are coming away with medals, championships and undefeated seasons!
Over the past 5 years that I took over ownership of the club we have grown from 35 athletes and pushing for NIT qualifications to 130 for this season so far & 5 National Indoor Championships in the past 4 years. The club has taken on a life of its own as anything does when it grows. We are now an established winning club with a national presence. With that development comes more responsibilities and restructuring as the club grows. Coupled with my duties as Club Director of Venom I have been pursuing my dream of Umpiring our sport at the highest levels in the world. I started umpiring back in England at the age of 15. Back then I quickly figured out I was a much better umpire than a player. When I moved to the USA at 19 years old I was told I had a future at the International level. I started my international career in tandem with my Venom one. This year I have been appointed to the Nations Cup in South Africa which is the inaugural FIH Pro-League Qualifier. This tournament is for countries ranked 9th-16th in the world to get into the Pro-League, which is a year-long tournament for teams ranked 1st-8th, at the end of the season the lowest team in the league gets replaced by the Nation’s Cup winner.. The Nation’s Cup Tournament is being held in South Africa from November 27th - December 5th 2022. To properly prepare for this international event I have been given the opportunity to go to England and umpire their National League. I will be leaving for Europe on November 11th to prepare for my biggest challenge yet internationally.
With my increasing international duties I am finding myself away from Pittsburgh at inopportune times in the Venom season. With this becoming more and more likely we have decided to officially re-structure the Venom leadership. I will be taking the mantle of Owner & Coach and we are promoting our Coaching Director Kyla Spallone to Club Director and all the responsibilities that will entail. This in turn will mean we will be promoting Head Coaches to take responsibilities of individual teams to align our structure with the bigger clubs in the nation. I will still be managing the club’s administration and I will also be coaching for the club but Kyla will be taking on the responsibilities of managing the club teams, coaches, curriculum & tournaments.
This is a very exciting time for our sport and club. We have been growing every year and we have shown what happens when you have dedicated people all working together for a common goal. Our success on the court and field was unheard of a decade ago in Pittsburgh. Now people look at us in Western PA as a force to be reckoned with. I cannot wait to see where we will go this year and in the future with our new professional club structure.
Benjamin Peters, Owner
As we enter this next year of indoor field hockey and with Coach Ben’s role being adjusted to fit what is best for the club, I think it is important for everyone to understand how lucky we are to have him as our leader here within the club. I have been with this club team since 2017 and I have had the opportunity to watch the club grow, but also other coaches along with it. Coach Ben has always stated his talents lie on the umpiring side of field hockey rather than the coaching side and I think it is important for everyone to know just how much he has accomplished across the years. At this point in time, he has umpired all over the world from here in North America to Europe to South America to Australia and this upcoming winter he will be traveling to Africa to continue his journey. He first started his international career out as a youth umpire and has worked his way with both mens and womens field hockey to his next journey at the Nations Cup. This next tournament is where he pushes his career even further along and closer to his ultimate goal of hopefully being an umpire at a summer Olympic Games and with that an opportunity to umpire the Top Teams in the world in the FIH Pro League. He actually will more than likely get his 50th international “cap” while at this tournament. Not only has Coach Ben succeeded on the international level but he has helped put and keep Pittsburgh field hockey on the map with his coaching ability and his extensive connections with collegiate coaches and USA field hockey personnel alike.
His relationships with NCAA coaches extend from the very best of the best to Division II and Division III schools as well. Last year alone, he was one of the umpires selected to work the Final Four for Division II and the ACC Championship. He is continuously taking his facetime with these coaches to remind them of our excellent club team and Pittsburgh field hockey in general.
When you really get to break down all of what he has accomplished, you can see how important both Venom and his umpiring career is to him. I hope everyone can understand those moments to which he needs to prioritize his umpiring and allow us as the hometown coaches to not just hold down the fort but continue to push this club forward without his day to day guidance.
I look forward to stepping into this role within the club’s structure and seeing our own head coaches continue the successes we have seen across the past few years.
Kyla Spallone, Club Director