By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
There are high school camps and then there is the Pioneer Soccer Academy.
More than 100 future Pioneers and Lady Pioneers will descend on the Stillwater Junior High School soccer field Tuesday for the seventh annual Pioneer Soccer Academy. And this year’s academy proves to be bigger and better than ever.
“We’re going to try some different games and activities,” Stillwater High School coach Seth Condley said. “I don’t want to give too much out, but we’re going to do something called a Pioneer team challenge, where all the kids get together and we divide the whole camp up into teams. Then, they’ll go through different little stations together. We’ve got more instructors because our camp numbers have gone up, so hopefully they’ll get a little more instruction from different people. If they learn something, great. If they just have some fun, then they’ll get a lot out of the camp too.”
Planning any camp can often lead to sleepless nights and headaches, but planning for dozens of pint-sized soccer players? That’s enough to make even the toughest coach curl up in the fetal position.
Only Condley, who has been in charge of the camp since it’s inception, said he doesn’t mind. In fact, he welcomes the challenge of getting more kids excited about soccer — including a few participants from surrounding towns.
“We are looking at over 100 campers right now, which is a good sign for soccer in Stillwater and the surrounding communities,” Condley said. “We have kids from all over coming in because of the growth of soccer in these communities. Hopefully we can continue to grow it and continue to make it better.”
The large numbers may play a little bit of a factor with only one field available for the camp. But Condley said he’s already worked up a schedule in which this year’s participants will rotate from activity to activity in hopes of building off each skill as they move around the field.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Condley said. “It will be a challenge because we’ll be on one soccer field, so I’ll have to be able to move them around to different spaces without having too much congestion.”
Even if there is a little congestion from time to time, Condley hopes to use the academy as a learning tool — not only for the players, but also for the academy’s staff.
“We’re just hoping to have a good experience that they can draw on in the future,” Condley said. “We want to try to make it bigger and better every year, which is tough to do when you have that many kids. But hopefully they’ll get something out of it and come back the next year and hopefully we can learn what works and what doesn’t.”
As for the camp itself, Condley said it isn’t necessarily about learning new skills or even improving. It’s about having fun.
“That probably should be the goal of every camp, especially for the young kids,” Condley said. “They should learn a couple basic fundamentals that they can take away and work on at home, at a club team or even at school on the playground. Then they come back the next year and they increase upon that knowledge. But most importantly, you want the kids to have fun, enjoy it, spread the word about soccer and maybe make some new friends.”