Meet the Ruttenbergs, Granby’s ‘first family’ of soccer
September 5, 2017
The Middle Park Panthers don't have a new soccer coach, they just got their old one back. Dane Ruttenberg helped to build Middle Park's soccer program back in 1997, and returns to the helm this season with hopes of bringing the Panthers to the playoffs, and creating a culture of winning.
"I'm comfortable with being an assistant coach," said Ruttenberg. "I've never really felt the need to be the guy. But the program is very dear to me because I was there in the beginning. So when Andy Paugh stepped down, I reached out to be head coach."
Ruttenberg grew up in rural Maine, where he wasn't able to start playing soccer until the eighth grade. Regardless, he ended up playing four years of varsity soccer in high school, and eventually went on to play division 3 for the University of Maine Presque Isle, about 45 minutes from the Canadian border.
Ruttenberg was short, fast and he excelled on the defensive side of the ball.
"I just got lucky I think," he said. "I was always fast and always a good defender. So I had a skill set. Basketball was my first sport, but of course at 5 foot 7, I wasn't really going to go anywhere with that. I realized my senior year when I started getting letters that I guess I could be good at soccer."
Ruttenberg's passion for the sport wouldn't really emerge in force until he took his first coaching job. He used to play in adult leagues, where a member of another team recruited him to be an assisted coach of the Mount View High School Girl's Soccer Team in Thorndike, Maine.
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Afterward Ruttenberg packed up and decided to move to Grand County for a winter, and never left. Upon arrival Scott Ledin, director of Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District, asked Ruttenberg to coach a U-15 team.
"We had a really good season, and I had a lot of boys who were ninth graders," said Ruttenberg. "Middle Park High School didn't have a high school program at the time. So at the end of the season some parents approached me and said they wanted to start a high school team, and asked if I would be the head coach so they could move forward."
The Middle Park soccer program began under Ruttenberg in 1996, with 32 kids coming out for a junior varsity team. A year later the school had it's first varsity soccer program.
Ruttenberg stepped down from the head coaching post in 1999, when he got married at began graduate school. He was back in 2000 as an assistant coach for eight more years. At that point, his son and daughter beginning to play soccer themselves, he decided to coach youth sports instead.
He's coached his son Ethan almost his entire life, and has now reconnected with him on the field. Ethan Ruttenberg is a freshman at Middle Park High School, and the starting goalie for the varsity soccer team.
"It's tough to make a ninth grader the varsity goalie," said coach Ruttenberg. "I'm harder on him than I am on other players. I'm more crass with him, where I would usually take a softer approach. I'm working on just treating him and communicating with him the same as the other guys."
So far the young goalie is handling the pressure well, as one of only two freshmen on the team. He recorded his first shutout this weekend against SkyView Academy, and has surrendered four goals in three games so far.
"It's a good experience being a freshman, because there's only two us on the varsity team, but they've really accepted us," said Ethan Ruttenberg. "I feel like my defense listens to me, and I have a good relationship with the rest of the team."
Ethan has been playing soccer his entire life, and over the last few years has dedicated himself to becoming a strong keeper. Coach Ruttenberg said Ethan trains nine months out of the year attending the CORE Soccer Academy and other goalie camps on the Front Range.
Ethan says he loves the pressure of being in game.
"I like the roll, and I like being able to communicate my defense around," he said. "I guess I like the thrill of it. I like being able to come up with a big save. The more pressure on, the more shots I get to stop. I love that."
Ethan said he is enjoying Middle Park High so far, and that his favorite subject is AP human geography. While he just started high school, he says playing collegiate soccer is definitely in his plans for the future.
The new tandem of Ruttenberg and Ruttenberg may be enough to boost an otherwise talented roster to the state playoffs, a goal coach Ruttenberg wants to become the new standard for the Panthers.
"I want the boys, like the girls, to make the state tournament every year," said coach Ruttenberg. "Ultimately you want to win a state championship. That's my goal is to get the team to a state championship within the next your years. But for now I want to make the playoffs, and I want that to be the standard."