Stillwater News Press

July 11, 2013

Team challenge adds new twist to Pioneer Soccer Academy

By Nick Snow
nicksnow@stwnewspress.com

STILLWATER, Okla. — When it comes to the Pioneer Soccer Academy, Stillwater High School coach Seth Condley is always trying to find ways to keep things fresh and exciting while helping kids hone their skills.

Thursday, Condley added a new twist to the four-day camp with the Pioneer Team Challenge — a series of six events designed for players of all skills.

“It was really fun,” Clair Thomas said. “I learned some new stuff, so it was a great experience.”

“I thought it went pretty good,” Condley said. “There’s always stuff we can improve on. It went a little longer than I had anticipated because some of the stations ran long, but overall I was pleased with how everything turned out, especially since it was our first year. The instructors did a good job of adjusting and it was a different thing for the kids.”

It took some adjustment on everybody’s part as the fast-paced drills from the last two days turned into a more mellow — yet tough — competition that featured such events as the crossbar challenge and cone passing.

“The third day is always the toughest day,” Condley said. “The first two days you can get through, but that third day your legs begin to bark at you and saying, ‘Man, I don’t want to run. I don’t want to move.’ ... When we did the team challenge there wasn’t a lot of physical exertion going on, so it kind of got the kids’ legs back underneath them a little bit.”

From the speed dribbling to the soccer golf, there may not have been as much physical exertion being done but there is a reason Condley called the competition a challenge. It wasn’t exactly easy for anybody.

Even the coaches running the drills had a hard time with the trash can chipping contest, proving the old adage of easier said than done.

“It’s pretty challenging,” Condley said. “That’s kind of why it’s a team challenge. It’s fun to see those guys test their skills. That’s what we want. We want them getting out there and mixing in with the kids and having a good time with it.”

They may not have had as much success — with several Pioneer players missing high and wide on the rapid-fire challenge — but just getting to take the field beside the current Stillwater players was special for Thomas.

“It’s really cool to see really good players and have them help teach us,” Thomas said.

Even for those campers that didn’t necessarily get the chance to interact as much with the current Stillwater players, having the experience of some eighth-graders on each team in the combined camp provided plenty of opportunities for learning a new skill or two.

“That’s kind of why we put this together,” Condley said. “They younger kids can kind of see their effort and their technique. Then the older kids can kind of make an impression on them and develop into more of a leadership role. You hope it works, but you just never know. That was our goal, though — to have the older kids set an example for the younger kids.”

As for the future of the Pioneer Team Challenge, Condley said that there’s little doubt that it will be back next year — hinting at the possibility of different events to keep things interesting.

“I think we’ll do it,” Condley said. “Even though it ran a little long, we can tweak some things for next year. I see it being a part of the academy for a while.”

And with that in mind, Thomas said she’s already thinking about next year’s challenge — hoping to give her team even more of a boost than this year.

“I hope to be better,” Thomas said. “This camp really helps improve your skill level and that’s what I’m trying to do.”