The British are coming to South Whidbey.
To play soccer, that is.
From Aug. 8-12, South Whidbey soccer players aged 3 to 16 will participate in a “British Soccer Camp,” hosted by Challenger Sports and South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District. Designed to mix both fun and learning, the week-long camp to be held on the upper soccer fields incorporates a curriculum developed by the country that invented the sport, and taught by coaches who live, breath and eat soccer.
“Soccer is a religion; it’s a huge passion,” said Dan Leeming, regional director for Challenger Sports. “The coaches bring across that attitude in their body language.”
Four coaches, who were hand picked and among 1,200 British soccer coaches with Challenger Sports, will teach technical foot skills, juggling, moves and more. Basic fundamentals, such as passing and dribbling, will also be taught. The goal, said Regional Director David Hartsthorn, is to provide participants with at least 1,000 touches on the ball. The end result, he said, is a player who is much more confident to excel on the field.
“We’re finding out the more exposure they have on the ball, the more comfortable they become,” Hartsthorn said.
Sessions begin with a warm-up session, followed by activities that address specific techniques. Each day concludes with a “Camp World Cup.” The daily tournament will split players into teams, each of which represents a world cup team. Extra points are awarded to teams that create chants, wear team colors of their chosen country, create flags and show knowledge of their country’s culture.
Walden McKell, 8, has participated in the camp the past two years. Both times, McKell was on the winning team.
“What’s really fun is when we do scrimmages, and the world cup,” McKell said. “I’m really looking forward to getting better as a player.”
Hartsthorn said the most unique aspect of the British Soccer Camp are the coaches. Coaches go through a selection process prior to arrival, which includes training and assessments, to ensure the best possible coaches are on the field during the camp. Coaches stay with host families during the duration of the camp.
“Anybody can put the games on the field, the activities, but not everybody can deliver it with excitement and energy our coaches bring,” Hartsthorn said. “That ultimately rubs off on the children. If the children are excited, they’re more susceptible to learn more things.”
Typically, the goal is to provide a 15:1 ratio between players and coaches, Hartsthorn said.
McKell said the coaches’ passion made the camp not only fun, but helped him grow as a player.
“They love [soccer] a lot,” McKell said. “That’s probably the biggest thing, they take it seriously and it’s why I’ve evolved.”
Carrie Monforte, program direction with the parks and recreation district, said 36 kids were registered for the camp as of Thursday morning. Monforte said attendees have enjoyed not only what they learned in the camp, but also the cultural difference the coaches bring. The camp has also been hosted by the district annually over the last decade.
“People always really enjoy the British Soccer Camp,” Monforte said. “They have fun accents.”
“Their goal is to make it really enjoyable for the kids. It’s not high pressure,” she added.
Participants will also receive a free camp t-shirt, ball, soccer poster and personalized skills evaluation. Space is limited and parents are encouraged to sign up online at www.challengersports.com.
The following week, Challenger Sports and the parks and recreation district will host another week-long camp, “Tetra Brazil Soccer Camp.” Following similar philosophies as the British Soccer Camp and designed for players with more developed skills, the week-long camp from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 15-19 will include clinics to help players improve ball control, foot skills and moves utilized by Brazilian soccer coaches. Players are grouped according to age and ability.
Hartsthorn said the camp is different both culturally and in energy. Players will learn a little bit of Portuguese, while playing to the sound of Brazilian samba music.
“The biggest difference is the cultural difference,” Hartsthorn said. “Our Brazilian coaches come with a different perspective. They bring music, technical foot skills and a completely different energy and atmosphere.”
British Soccer Camp
Ages 3-4: “First Kicks”
Ages 5-6: “Mini Soccer”
Ages 6-10: “Half Day”
9 a.m.–12 p.m.
Ages 11-16: “Half Day”
1– 4 p.m.
Tetra Brazil Camp
Ages 8-16: “Brazilian Way”
9 a.m.–4 p.m.