A group of young people in Hay River honed their skills in the beautiful game of soccer last week, all while being encouraged to have fun.
They were participating in a camp called British Soccer Hay River.
“A camp that’s a week long for kids changes their skill set,” said Shelley Maher, treasurer of Elks Soccer Hay River, which sponsored the event. “I mean focusing on something for a whole week is huge. It’s a great way to get them into soccer or sports.”
The instruction was provided by representatives of the U.S.-based Challenger Sports, which bills itself as the largest youth soccer coaching program in North America.
Maher said the Aug. 17 to 21 camp was the fourth year it was held in Hay River.
About 30 youngsters – aged from three to 13 years – participated.
The camp began outdoors at Tri-Services Park, but was forced indoors to the gym at Harry Camsell School by the heavy rain and high winds last week. The players and two coaches moved to the gym the afternoon of Aug. 19 and stayed indoors for the rest of the camp.
The instructors were two Irish university students.
“Honestly, at this age it’s trying to keep their interest in soccer growing and growing,” said Mark Hoare, one of the instructors. “For young kids especially, we want to have as much fun as they can.”
If the young people have fun, Hoare explained, they’ll remember the soccer camp and may want to attend another one in the future.
“We’re just trying to incorporate the basic skills into fun games so that they’ll learn stuff even when they don’t realize it,” he added.
Hoare, a student of sports coaching at the University of Central Lancashire in England, was making his first visit to Hay River, after instructing this summer at camps in Indiana, Miami, Ontario, Edmonton and Yellowknife.
During his travels, he has seen a variety of skills and differences in the popularity of soccer.
“In some towns, soccer isn’t popular and, in some towns, soccer could be the most popular sport there,” he said. “So you get different standards of players. Most young kids are learning the basics of how to control the ball, how to pass, how to look up when you’re dribbling, stuff like that. Now with the older kids, it’s more about when to pass, maybe when to dribble, when you touch the ball can you look up first before you dribble or before you pass. So we’re getting them to think more about the tactical side of the game and gaining more understanding.”
Still, Hoare said the main thing that young people have fun.
The young participants in last week’s camp in Hay River seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Thirteen-year-old Nicole Griffiths, who was at the camp for the first time, said she enjoyed playing in the scrimmages.
“And we learn a lot of skills, too,” she said, adding she hopes that it will make her a better player.
Eight-year-old Alexandre Hubert, who was at his second soccer camp, said he enjoyed everything about it.
In fact, soccer is his favourite sport, he said. “It’s really fun.”