Last week brought more than 35 kids of all ages eager to learn the ins and outs of soccer at the Ponoka Secondary Campus pitch.
Kids as young as four years old and those in their teens worked hard all week at the Challenger Sports soccer camp while soccer coaches from Great Britain gave them important tips to become better players. Coach Jack Sarahs said more than 1,700 coaches fly out from Britain to cities across North America in the summer.
This is his second year with the program and he said he enjoyed mentoring older kids in advanced steps. The trick is in how kids are taught.
“You need to get the balance of them enjoying soccer and learning the sport,” explained Sarahs.
He suggests soccer is an ideal learning ground for developing social skills and learning the importance of team ethics. As this is the first year of the camp in Ponoka, Sarahs feels if Ponoka Minor Soccer decides to hire them again, the number of entrants will expand.
There were three coaches working the young athletes over the course of the week and each one said the main focus was to develop a love for the game. Coach Sean Aspinall feels soccer is an accessible sport and relatively inexpensive to play.
“All you need is a pair of cleats and some grass,” said Aspinall.
These camps not only train kids how to play the game better, they also drive interest in the sport and the more players there are, the better, he added.
Coach Shannon Brannan taught young kids — aged four and five years old — how to play in the First Kicks and Mini Soccer programs. Brannan used fun games that gave these young athletes important soccer skills.
She provided dribbling and soft touch skills that will be the basis for the rest of their soccer careers.
“I enjoy that (age) group the most because you see clear development,” explained Brannan.
Interest in the camp came from Lonny Behm, vice-president and co-ordinator of coach and player development for Ponoka Minor Soccer. He said he was pleased with the interest for the first year of the camp. Behm says Challenger Sports is the largest soccer camp in North America and the coaches have done well.
“The coaches are super friendly,” said Behm.
He heard of the soccer camp from other soccer associations that used Challenger Sports and found their response was positive. He is already looking at bringing the group back to Ponoka next year and hopes to bring them earlier in the summer season.
For Behm, the best part of the camp was giving kids a chance to play longer, learn more and seeing participants having a fun experience.