On Wednesdays throughout 2021, USA Field Hockey will highlight an active club from one of the nine regions around the United States to shine a spotlight on what makes Member Clubs unique. From coast-to-coast, clubs big and small will be featured to increase awareness of field hockey across the country, and administrators and coaches will have the chance to talk about initiatives, training and favorite parts of the game. This week from Region 9 is Pittsburgh Venom Field Hockey Club (FHC).
Club Name: Pittsburgh Venom FHC
History: Pittsburgh Venom was founded in 2010 by former U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Rutger Wiese and Olivia Netzler Gray. Seven years later, Benjamin Peters, an International Hockey Federation (FIH) and NCAA certified umpire, took over leading the club and has since continued to grow and develop athletes in Western Pennsylvania. Coupled with Peter’s international and collegiate experience is Kyla Spallone, whom herself has carried on her family’s tradition of coaching with stints at Ithaca College and with the Worcester County United Field Hockey Academy.
The club has continued to provide year-round training for interested athletes for more than a decade. As stated in its mission statement, Pittsburgh Venom aims to provide knowledge and life experiences to players which will instill in an individual’s future, be it with or outside of the game of field hockey. The club also prides itself in maintaining a staff that is respectable, dedicated and creative in delivering programming to the next generation of athletes.
Accolades/Awards: Pittsburgh Venom is currently unranked in the USA Field Hockey National Club Rankings.
Below is a list of recent participations and finishes at USA Field Hockey National Events:
2021 National Indoor Tournament
- U-14 Girls Pool V, third place
- U-16 Girls Pool Y, first place
- U-16 Girls Pool Z, third place
- U-19 Girls Pool U, first place
- U-19 Girls Pool Y, fifth place
2020 National Indoor Tournament
- U-14 Girls Pool BB, first place
- U-16 Girls Pool R, second place
- U-19 Girls Pool W, third place
Peters on Club Life:
Pittsburgh Venom rotates between indoor training from October to March and outdoor from April to July. In the summer months the club also offers a multi-day camp. Peters added that the club has an additional goal to grow the game among the local community, which currently hosts 20 high schools in the Western Pennsylvania region. He explained further that the club is doing this by assisting school training programs with coaches or by lending equipment to help young players who are just starting to pick up their sticks. The club also donates to several local high schools as well as local charities such as the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Bank and Killian 5K, a charity of a former club member whose son, Killian Cavanaugh, passed away.
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020, Pittsburgh Venom members stayed connected through organized social media events. As local restrictions loosened, the club was able to return to action in late summer with socially distanced outdoor practices and participated in a full winter season.
Since Peters took over the club in 2017, he is proud to have seen more than a dozen athletes commit and move on to play collegiately at the NCAA Division I, II and III levels. His favorite part about being part of the USA Field Hockey Family is the support and backing of the National Governing Body through National Events. He has been especially thankful for the former Futures program as it helped the local area with increased coaching and playing opportunities, which will continue with the newly developed Nexus program.