Pennsylvania Soccer: An American High School Tradition with the Ridley Raiders

First, my hat is off to every coach, mentor, administrator, and stakeholder who has contributed to the student athlete in the past, as well as those who continue to participate in the lives of student athletes and communities in America. The time and effort that goes into training is tremendous in terms of X’s and O’s, and most importantly, the personal life of the student athlete, involving people, places, and situations. Coaches are true role models and have an impact on the lives of players. LONG LIVE THE COACH!

Pennsylvania soccer is known as one of America’s greatest traditions. Players like Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Joe Montana, and dozens of other big-name players have established themselves, the state, and others as the “cradle” and backbone of high school football. Additionally, Pennsylvania coaches like Curry (Berwick), Bernat (Owen J. Roberts), Waller (Ridley), Pettine (CBWest), etc … represented the leadership of student athletes both on and off the field. I have personally encountered Coach Hank Bernat, in more ways than one, and believe me he is a COACH! These motivational, inspirational, dedicated, and strong mentors sought to ensure that the student-athlete endured successfully in education and in the community. Coaches at Penn’s Woods, Pennsylvania made sure each player understood the realities of life and that it was imperative to become a productive citizen in America. The best general coach in Pennsylvania that people have ever told me about and that I have witnessed in terms of leadership, and emphasizing the try and care mentality was the one and only Jerry Sandusky. Do I need to say more?

In many unsuccessful and successful soccer programs in 21st century high school communities, educators and coaches are pressured to achieve the positive results of winning, either by undermining or acquiring true support, preparation, and education within the school setting. . The question remains, what is the intention of the coach? Are you using the student athlete as a pawn for your future success, or do you care about the student first? This has a profound impact on the integrity of your mission and, most importantly, on the student athlete! This environment can create an unsound culture as well as poor value production internally within a school society and infiltrates the American community and society. This negative domino effect is the end result of not only losing at the game of life, but instilling a stale atmosphere within the school institution in terms of sport and other social aspects.


A reminder, not an introduction, the Ridley Raiders continue to be the Pennsylvania team and one of America’s traditional soccer teams. Established in 1934, Ridley’s soccer program reached the 500-win mark “30” years faster than any other program in the state. Additionally, as a testament to their tradition and success, the Ridley Raiders have the best winning percentage in Pennsylvania, in addition to setting the highest winning percentage in the nation at 25 percent! A school society of tradition endorsed and supported by all stakeholders, including students, educators, administrators, and a leading community of “workers”. Fans consisting of the traditional family and others who are new to the community buy into the “blue collar” work ethic and the city and are dedicated to the students, the community, the coaches and the team. This action is something that is not heard in many school societies in various high school educational settings. This is what makes the Ridley congregation a winner within a geographic area (Philadelphia) that is not just a tradition for soccer, but is the foundation of America’s history and birthplace ( Declaration of Independence).

Stakeholders in American high schools and postsecondary education must first emphasize the successes of the student-athlete, and money, fame, and aspirations to succeed may coincide if they are supposed to. Take care of the student athlete! Ask higher education coaches and motivators like Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, Jackie Sherrill, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Bowden, RC Slocum, Don Nehlen, Bo Schinbeckler, Tom Osborne, Paul Bryant and many others who continue or have motivated and taught the student athlete to be strong and productive citizens on and off the field. HEALTH TO THE RIDLEY RAIDERS!

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