Seth Condley can often be seen at his annual Pioneer Soccer Academy walking from field to field, instructing his current and former Stillwater High players of what they need to do or forgot to do.
To the naked eye, it could be seen as the SHS coach yelling at his camp staff members.
Yet, to those within the program or those involved in the academy for years, it’s friendly bantering.
Sure, games have to be played and competitions must be scheduled, along with several other small tasks, but it all happens fairly seamlessly every summer at Babcock Park. It’s become an annual tradition in Stillwater, and the longtime SHS coach credits everyone around him.
“I say it every year, but this has been another really good camp, and I think it all starts with our staff,” Condley said. “The attitudes they bring and that reflects upon the kids, and then the kids have a good attitude. It’s hot, but it’s not as hot as it’s normally been, but it’s a hard camp and there is very little standing and sitting.
“… A lot of the staff members have gone to this camp. They’ve been through this before, so they know they expectation and what we try to do.”
For Condley, it’s enjoyable to see his once former campers who become high school players and some who play in college come out and help run the camp each summer. He knows of their importance, but he also likes watching them teach the next generation of Stillwater soccer players.
Some of those are even his own children – two of whom will no longer be campers after this year. One of them – SHS junior Joye Condley – has been a team leader for a couple years now.
“Jeff Rhea was a camper here, and now he’s a team leader,” Condley said. “Zoey Long and Ethan Hicks were campers, too, and now they’re team leaders. My kids are here, and Joye is a team leader now. This is Griffin’s last year – he’s an eighth-grader. Kambrian Colborn and Claire Thomas both came this camp and are now team leaders. A lot of the team leaders have come through this camp. It’s a really good group of boys and girls, and the chemistry they have and their understanding of what we do helps.”
On Thursday morning, Condley took time to watch his current and former players coach the young campers in their respective teams, based on ages. The older teams – not surprisingly – take the games more serious, so the competition ramps up.
Yet, all of the age groups give the team leaders troubles. It’s a good way to teach his players what it’s like to be on the other side of things.
“My favorite part is giving the high school kids a group and letting them coach and tell them good luck,” Condley said. “They come back and tell me the kids aren’t listening. I’m like, ‘Wow, imagine that. At the high school level, when I ask you to take two or three touches and you want to take nine.’ Now, these kids are doing the same thing.
“Coaching and playing are two different things, and they’re finding that out. A lot of them are telling me they understand a bit more of what I’m going through at the coaching level. It’s some frustrations and some of figuring out how to improve things. You also have to factor in the kids’ age, too.”
No matter the age of the camper, they’re all being taught one lesson in particular this year. It begins at the older ages, but trickles down.
It’s attitude, and how to keep a positive attitude through tough times. It’s something Condley and his staff are emphasizing during the four-day camp that ends Friday.
“When you’re older, you can work more on the attitude of trying to stay happy when something bad happens,” Condley said. “How do you respond to adversity? When something bad happens, do you drop your head and throw you hands up? It’s things like that. That’s what we’ve been talking to a lot of kids at this camp about – respond differently or respond in a different manner than yelling at your teammates.”
Condley and his staff know about dealing with adversity when it comes to the camp’s location. Babcock Park, located at 19th Avenue and Western Road in southwest Stillwater, was completely underwater in May when constant heavy rains flooded many portions of the area and state.
It created problems, but things have returned to near normalcy two months later, in time for the annual soccer camp.
“Being one of the field crew guys, you drive by and see it and think, ‘Oh my,’” Condley said. “Then we lost all of the trash cans. They are in the creek, so the City of Stillwater is going to have to replace those. That’s why there is only one or two trash cans out here. It’s crazy. It’s good to see being use. The fields – for being underwater as long as they were – they’re in pretty good shape.”
The camp, which consists of 114 campers this year, wraps up Friday morning with the final games and the beloved obstacle course competition to finish the week. Temperatures are once again expected to be unseasonably cool, which has been enjoyed by everyone this week.
“It’s crazy how it just turned,” Condley said. “It’s in the 80s, and I think it affects the little kids the most. They’re hot, but if it’s a little cooler, they have a little more energy. They are playing 6v6, and a lot of teams only have seven or eight kids. The numbers for subs at a lot of the age groups is very limited, so that’s why the temperatures really help.”