Palmyra’s own professional soccer player kicking his training into high gear

Ryan Butler splits his time between working with professionals and training future ones.

Courtesy of the Philadelphia Fury.

Ryan Butler holds Palmyra High School’s record for the most soccer goals scored in four years, but that’s not what has scored him local fame. Butler, 23, splits his time during the week between training as a forward for the Philadelphia Fury, a team in the American Soccer League, and running his own business training local soccer players.

Butler nabbed a professional soccer contract with the Fury in 2016 playing in the last two games of the season, and now, he is taking his knowledge and experience as a professional soccer player and imparting it on the Palmyra community. He said he knew he wanted to create a platform where he could share his love of soccer with his local community and have a chance to interact with young soccer players.

For that reason, he created Train 13 — his own training program where he works one-on-one or with teams to train soccer players at all ages and levels of play. Butler has worn №13 for his entire soccer career, which inspired his program’s name.

“I’m really passionate about the game,” Butler said. “I want to be able to share it with some of the younger kids.”

Butler started playing soccer at around 5 years old. His high school coach, Michael Papenberg, said he saw Butler’s potential early on as his middle school gym teacher and later as his soccer coach. He said from a young age, Butler displayed all of the attributes that make up a great athlete — not just in skill but in character. He described Butler as a reserved, hard-working and intelligent individual.

“He’s one of the top players to ever come through Palmyra High School,” Papenberg said.

After winning the state championship for the first time in Palmyra’s history his sophomore year and setting the goal scoring record, Butler went on to play soccer at Ursinus College. He graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in health and exercise physiology and had an opportunity to try out for the Fury.

“I guess the coach there liked what he saw,” Butler said.

He joined late into the season in 2016 and did not expect to get much time on the field. He said his Fury debut was during the last 10 minutes of the game in the second to last game of the season.

He scored the game-winning goal that night.

Transitioning from playing on a Division III team to the professional level was a wake-up call for Butler. He quickly learned he had to fight for his spot at every practice. Looking forward, Butler hopes to continue advancing to more challenging levels of play either in the United States or Europe.

Butler lives in Palmyra and is busy training four to five days a week with the Fury in preparation for the upcoming season, training local soccer players three to four days a week through his business and holding a job at Outlaw Training and Fitness in Riverton three to four days a week.

Butler trains players of all ages who often come in shy because he is a professional athlete. He said his goal is not just to be a coach but to make a connection with his players. He said his past experiences with coaches who did not connect well with players took some of the joy out of the game.

“I don’t act as a professional soccer player; I try to be a social outlet,” Butler said. “I want to connect with them individually.”

Papenberg said he thinks Butler serves as a role model for local soccer players. He said any player seeking Butler’s soccer expertise is not only going to become a better player but a better person.