By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Hailey Selman watches as a young camper anxiously paces the sideline waiting for his chance to play. The Stillwater senior-to-be then goes over and reassures the player that he will get his turn.
Why? Because she’s been there.
Selman wasn’t always the biggest, fastest or strongest growing up. In fact, she didn’t think she would be playing soccer past junior high school. Now, she’s not only playing at a high level, but she’s also trying to help others follow in her footsteps.
“I feel really honored to be on the staff (at the Pioneer Soccer Academy),” Selman said. “I remember looking up to the older players and now I’m one of the older players. I feel so honored to be one of those people that they look up to.
“It’s so weird. I wasn’t expecting it to be like this. They’ll come over to me and ask me questions about soccer and stuff. I wasn’t ever expecting to be that player that gets asked questions from little kids because I was never that good.”
Selman is one of more than a dozen former and current Pioneers helping with the Pioneer Soccer Academy this week, doing everything from tying the shoes of the younger kids to teaching advanced skills and techniques to the older kids.
“I love teaching kids how to play soccer,” former Stillwater star Matheus Barbosa said. “It’s a real joy, especially in my hometown. ... During the game I’m just telling them basic stuff that people taught me when I was their age growing up in Brazil. I haven’t taught them anything too advanced because they’re very young players — just the basics of playing the game like passing and sharing the ball.”
Teaching the future Pioneers and Lady Pioneers may be a big goal of the camp, but the real challenge is figuring out who is having more fun.
Whether it’s celebrating a goal by wrapping a towel around a player’s shoulders to create a cape or sharing laughter as one of the younger players heads toward the wrong goal, there are plenty of stories to be shared each day.
“It’s a bunch of fun,” Selman said. “I love the little kids. I love going home and telling my mom more stories about them. It’s just such a great time.”
“It’s a chance to relive a little bit of the old days,” Barbosa said. “When one of your teammates scores a goal, it’s always exciting. Being the coach of the little kids, it’s also exciting when they score. I might be happier than they are.”
When it comes to soccer, few are happier to be on the pitch than Barbosa, who saw his high school career end last season.
“Any time I see anybody playing soccer, it revives me,” Barbosa said. “It’s always nice. It makes me just want to be out there with them.
“It’s great that we have something like this. It’s definitely a change and something that we haven’t seen in Stillwater before. Now that it’s coming around, it’s really looking good for the future of the program. I’m always going to be a Pioneer, so to see this many kids out here is great because I’m always looking forward to the future of the program.”
Who knows? Maybe somewhere in the 100 or so participants is a young Hailey Selman or Matheus Barbosa. And even if some of the players on Selman’s team don’t pan out, she said just getting the chance to be a coach has changed her outlook on things and possibly her career path after high school.
“It’s such a great feeling,” Selman said. “I get so excited and I love helping them. I’m just glad they’ll listen to me and they’ll learn from it.
“I love it. I’m going to do it again next year after I graduated. I’ll come back for (the camp) because it is so much fun.”