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British group looks to cultivate passion for soccer
by Damian Tromerhauser
Jun 29, 2012 | 936 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For years, soccer has been a sport of fleeting popularity in America. While many kids grow up with the game during their childhood, the number of people continuing to stay on the pitch through their adolescence has always waned. One soccer camp is hoping to change that in the Rail City.

The Challenger Sports British Soccer Camps just wrapped up week-long lessons of the most popular soccer camp in the country. With sections for different ages and skill levels and sessions running as short as one hour for kids 3-4 and six hours for kids aged 8-14, Sparks-area youths got a large dose of the United Kingdom’s love for the beautiful game with elite instruction from British coaches.

“We run all over the U.S.,” said Lee Dunne, Challenger Sports British Soccer Regional Director of North California and North Nevada. “We run in all 50 states with over 122,000 kids enrolled in our camps last year. There’s just a constant feedback of how engaged the kids are, how attentive our coaches are and how much progression is made just from that solid exposure of a week long soccer camp.”

Part of the reason there has been such positive reviews of the camp is because of the practice schedule for participants. Each day included individual foot skills, technical drills, tactical practices, small-sided games, coached scrimmages and a daily World Cup tournament. While the various physical elements of the game were a focus of the camp, the main point of interest for the coaches strayed away from the skills.

“The main thing we want to teach the kids is the love of the game,” Dunne said. “We want to instill that passion that our coaches have as they have grown up with the game. We have new curriculum called ‘1,000 Touches’ which is all about repetition on the ball along with lots of skills and lots of movement. The main thing is the fun though. It’s a huge thing that you see a lot of teams or coaches forget about. They get the kids out there and they forget all about that fun element.”

The kids participating in the camp were sure to have fun with the different games and drills introduced through the program. Aside from having a good time, participants also gained a wealth of soccer knowledge from their coaches on how to play the game at the earliest of levels.

“We want to focus on foot skills. The curriculum of ‘1,000 Touches’ is all within the first 20-30 minutes. It’s all about using the different surfaces of the feet. You can use the inside, the outside, the bottoms,” Dunne said. “We want the kids to be able to move the ball and be confident with it so that they can then take that into the structured practices that we bring them into after that. A lot of times you’ll put a kid into a practice and they’ll lose what they’re doing because they haven’t got the foundation skills.”

While there are many soccer camps throughout America, it is the extra length that Challenger Sports goes that separates it from others.

“There’s quite a few British soccer companies out there but we go to a different level,” Dunne said. “We have about 64 regional directors that work in the U.S. We drive our recruitment back in the U.K. pretty much as soon as the summer is over. We do an assessment of our staff as to whether they’re back or not. Once we have a full recruitment staff back in the U.K., they’ll go out to universities and to clubs and to youth organizations and recruit just from them. Once the coaches are selected, all the directors fly back to the U.K. and we personally train our coaches. We spend three days with them on American curriculum, on American lifestyle because it is very different for a lot of these guys that come out. So we train with them and we give them our challenger way and the type of character that we deliver. We also assess them as a person as to whether I would want them to stay with me or not.”

With the right coaches in place, the kids are sure to gain a love for the game.

“It comes across from our coaches. Most people could coach soccer. You’ll see so many parents and volunteers go out and do it, but they haven’t grown up with the game. They haven’t seen what size the game is across the rest of the world. That’s what makes us unique,” Dunne said. “Our coaches have grown up with the game and are genuinely excited to come out here and work for us. We’re trying to spread our love of soccer through the fun games and through making children confident soccer players so that they can enjoy it. If they can’t enjoy it, then they’re not going to come back to it. If we can teach them the basic skills and get them to grasp and understand the game, then they’re happy to carry on playing and they begin to get that passion that our coaches have had for years because they have the skills as well.”

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