STILLWATER, Okla. —
Although the United States was knocked out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup last week, local interest in soccer was still high at the opening day of the Pioneer Soccer Academy.
Almost 100 youth — between first and eighth grades — came out to Stillwater Junior High School Tuesday for the first of the four-day camp. This year’s attendance took a slight dip from a year ago, but a large eighth-grade class in 2013 will be incoming freshmen this fall.
“I’m not worried about the numbers,” SHS boys soccer head coach Seth Condley said. “We just want kids out here and having fun, hopefully spreading the good word about soccer.”
With the World Cup coming to an end Sunday, Condley and his staff implemented a change this year.
“The World Cup definitely brings some awareness to people, so that’s why we incorporated all countries this year,” Condley said. “Usually we divide it into Olympic, Big 12 and MLS divisions. This year, we went ahead and used all countries because of the World Cup. It just makes sense.”
The 11 country team names are United States, Brazil, Argentina, Netherlands, Germany, Colombia, Greece, Nigeria, Belgium, France and Mexico. All 11 of the countries advanced to the round of 16 for this year’s World Cup.
As popularity for the U.S. men’s team increased during the past month, Condley hopes this week’s camp will spark an interest in his campers. He knows the interaction between his high school players, who are the camp team leaders, and the campers can be a huge benefit to the sport’s popularity and participation levels in the future.
“I think that’s the key ingredient,” Condley said. “The team leaders and the kids. If the team leaders have a good raport with their team, then those kids go back and talk to their parents or friends. Maybe they don’t come to camp, but maybe they try Stillwater Soccer Club. That’s what we’re wanting to do, because we are all involved in making Stillwater Soccer Club better. A better club team makes a better high school program and then you got kids that may go on to college.”
“I tell the team leaders that you’re going to see these kids around Stillwater and outside this camp,” he added. “Hopefully they come to your games. They are the future Jozy Altidores, Tim Howards and Clint Dempseys. My staff looks up and talks about those professional players. Now, these kids are going to be looking at them, so it’s the on-going cycle of forming the next generation of kids.”
While the future is unknown, the current SHS soccer players are teaching the campers the basics of the soccer while adding daily contests. The youngest campers worked on dribbling, passing and receiving the ball. They will begin to work on a few more advanced fundamentals.
For the older and more experienced campers, Tuesday was also a review of the basic fundamentals, while adding in defenders and more advanced skills.
“You always need those basic techniques, but as camp progresses with the days, hopefully the older kids are talking more, working in triangles, working on give-and-goes and exploiting and using open space to their advantage.”
In addition to the fundamentals, the campers also scrimmage teams in their age division each day. Every camper also participates in a daily contest with a winner being named from each age division. Each team holds a contest and the team winners compete against each other at the end of the session.
Tuesday’s competiton was a sideline throw-in contest for distance. Wednesday’s competition will be an agility speed challenge with Thursday’s contest being a straight speed challenge. The older campers will run a 40-yard dash while younger campers race a 25-yard dash. Friday’s final challenge will be an obstacle course.