Kuhl kids off to elite programs for athletics

Clifton Park brother-sister duo Anna Kuhl, left, and Cam Kuhl are shown in this recent photo. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)Clifton Park brother-sister duo Anna Kuhl, left, and Cam Kuhl are shown in this recent photo. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

BY MICHAEL KELLY
Gazette Sportswriter

CLIFTON PARK — When Cam Kuhl left home last year to chase his hockey dreams, that was a departure long expected for his parents, Ron and Debbie Kuhl. Through Ron Kuhl’s extensive experience with the sport — he owns Clifton Park’s Hockey Hut, a training center, and helps operate the Adirondack Jr. Wings, a top travel squad — the parents knew that the way to a college scholarship and beyond for hockey often calls for teenagers to live away from home while playing for elite junior squads.

“We were prepared for Cam to go away. We knew he needed to go away to pursue playing college hockey,” said Ron Kuhl, whose 18-year-old son starts his second season Sept. 12 with the Hauppauge-based P.A.L. Junior Islanders of the United States Premier Hockey League

But the Kuhls were not as prepared when their daughter left home Aug. 24 to continue her soccer-playing journey at the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a preparatory high school in Faribault, Minn. The family only knew for sure that Anna Kuhl, 16, was going to leave for Minnesota a couple weeks before she made the trek.

“But I feel like this was supposed to happen, and that’s a good feeling,” said Anna Kuhl, who will be a junior at the school.

(Clifton Park residents, both Kuhl children attended Shenendehowa through their sophomore years.)

Like her brother, Anna Kuhl has long been chasing her dream of playing high-level collegiate soccer. After playing with Clifton Park travel teams for years — “That’s where I got my foundation,” she said — Anna Kuhl started playing full-time with the Alleycats Soccer Club, one of the region’s best travel programs. It was with the Alleycats during a tournament down in Florida  this past December that a coach from Shattuck first saw Anna Kuhl and began recruiting her.

Ron Kuhl said he had heard of Shattuck in the past because of the school’s elite hockey program, which has helped produce now-NHL stars such as Sydney Crosby and Jonathan Toews. The soccer program at the school has also turned out its share of professionals and national team members, and a laundry list of players who have gone on to play the sport in college.

“My goal is definitely to play Division I soccer, that’s always been my goal. I’m hoping this will help get me somewhere,” said Anna Kuhl, who credited her past coaches — such as club coach Tara O’Keefe and youth coach Peter Burbank — for helping to develop her skills.

Heading off to a prep school such as Shattuck had not always been on Anna Kuhl’s to-do list. She said she had been perfectly happy attending Shenendehowa and playing club soccer — while many players do both club and school soccer, she chose only to play club — but could not pass up the chance to attend Shattuck after the school found her.

“After I visited, I fell in love with it,” she said. “It has a really good balance of school and soccer. The structure of it really hit with me; I’ll go to school for a few hours, then go to a practice for a couple hours, eat lunch, and then go back to school.”

So, soccer practice is like a class? Like, math or history?

“It’s so cool,” Anna Kuhl said.

Big brother Cam Kuhl — a high school senior who is home-schooled — echoed that sentiment to describe what it’s been like for him to watch his younger sister get to now chase her athletic dreams. He said it is hard to fathom his little sister is heading off on her own to Minnesota, but knows she will do well.

“I’m so excited for her,” he said.

Anna Kuhl said watching her brother succeed in his first hockey season in the USPHL made things easier for her to make her move.

“It helped a lot,” she said. “It’s been very cool to see how much he went for his dream.”

Before heading to the USPHL — a league that sees dozens of its players earn college scholarships each year — Cam Kuhl played two seasons for the Shenendehowa hockey squad, those campaigns sandwiched around a freshman year he missed because of an injury. Plainsmen head coach Juan de la Rocha said what always stuck out about Cam Kuhl, a defender, was how well he did the little things on the ice — a trait, de la Rocha said, the teenager likely picked up from his father’s tutelage.

“But you don’t get to where he is without hard work, and he’s put the hard work in,” de la Rocha said of Cam Kuhl.

Now, the hard work really starts for the Kuhl parents: trying to keep up with their kids’ exploits from a distance.

“It’s sad in one sense, but it is amazingly exciting, too,” Ron Kuhl said. “They’ve worked so hard. They’ve taken separate paths, different paths, to get to this point, but we’re so super proud of them.”

About the Author

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is a sports reporter for Your Clifton Park and Your Niskayuna, weekly print publications of The Daily Gazette. Kelly grew up in Clifton Park and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2006. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Kelly's work has been honored by the New York News Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. His work has previously been featured in The (Amsterdam) Recorder, The Saratogian, and Albany Times Union.