Moscow, UI stand united on the pitch

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MOSCOW - Members of the Moscow United Soccer Club will get some extra help on the sidelines this year following a recent partnership with the University of Idaho women's soccer staff.

Vandal coaches will help lead training sessions for the youth soccer program from August to May, teaching players the basic fundamentals and skills of the game.

"It kind of fulfilled a need we had for coaching education, but it also helps with player development," Moscow United board member Kelly Isakson said. "It's been a really cool deal, we had our first week of practice with them and I got a phone call from a Moscow United coach saying, 'Oh my gosh, this was phenomenal and we're so excited.' "

Although members of the Idaho soccer program routinely helped with Moscow United activities in previous seasons, the one-year partnership provides an official connection between the institution and youth soccer on the Palouse.

"We've always had a great relationship with the local youth community as far as soccer is concerned," Idaho coach Derek Pittman said. "(Former assistant coach) Laura Jackson helped out with Moscow United quite a bit in the past and we've had other coaches volunteer their time and run training sessions with them."

An official partnership was put into motion when Isakson and associate head coach Josh Davis contacted one another in January following a vacancy in the program.

"Josh knew I was affiliated with Moscow United and he said, 'I know you don't have a director of coaching right now, is there anything we can help you with?' " Isakson said. "We then started a series of conversations and began brainstorming ways we could take advantage of these collegiate coaches working to help train our players and mentor our coaches."

The Vandal staff kicked off their first training sessions this week with assigned squads of players ranging in age from 6 to 14 years old.

"We're still very early in the process, but I think overall the response has been very positive," Pittman said. "We all got our start in the game at different levels and different times in our career. To have our college coaches - who do this for a living and absolutely have a tremendous love and passion - pass that along to the local coaches and parents in town is something we see as a huge benefit."

Moscow United has stood as a nonprofit organization in Moscow since June of 1993, but president Dale Graden said the program was around long before any paperwork was filed.

"I would conservatively estimate that five, if not 10 years previous, it existed as an informal entity," Graden said. "I don't think I would be wrong if I said it has at least a 30-year history."

Although the contract between UI and Moscow United is for one year, Graden said he hopes the organization can renew the partnership on a long-term basis.

"Probably the biggest thing for me is that (Pittman) is committed, he's got two daughters in the program," Graden said. "We think we've got a great model here in place for the future of youth soccer on the Palouse."

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Joshua Grissom can be reached at jgrissom@dnews.com or on Twitter @JoshuaGNews.

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