The Challenger Sports program deploys soccer players and coaches from the United Kingdom (Wales, Northern Ireland, England and Scotland) to the United States and even Canada to teach youth all over North America the fundamentals of the game along with a framework of character development based on respect, responsibility, integrity, leadership and sportsmanship.
This year, there were four Challenger Sports coaches at the camp this week: Ryan Paterson of Wales, Jordan Oakley (England), Sofia Maria Munoz (England) and Gareth Flitcroft (England). Paterson has been to the United States before — he helped coach the 2011 Challenger Camp in Florida, parts of Georgia and in the New England area. For Munoz, Oakley and Flitcroft, this year’s camp is their first venture across the pond.
On Friday, the campers were split among two coaches each and since it was the last day of the camp, they played games like “Cowboys and Indians” and the “World Cup Points” game.
“The good thing about this camp is the skill level of the kids here in the States. These kids are pretty good so we don’t have to be stuck in the basics of the game,” said Paterson, the oldest coach at 23.
“The campers here are eager to go which is a great thing for us,” said Oakley, the youngest coach at 19. “It’s great when you have campers who do what you want them to do. They just want to learn and be better soccer players.”
Munoz, 20, said she loves being here in the U.S. She also said as a coach, she ends up getting attached to the campers.
“They kids are so much fun and you can’t help but get attached to them,” said Munoz, whose father is Spanish and mother is Italian. “I want to take them back home to England with me.”
Flitcroft, currently on break from college at Liverpool Hope, said he enjoys the passion of the campers here, which is different attitude than the kids in the United Kingdom.
“The kids here have a lot of desire to learn the game and they have so much fun playing it,” said Flitcroft, 20. “They listen and work well with us.”
“Back home, everybody is geniuses in soccer. They already know more than you do,” Paterson said, laughing.
The campers also had a good time this week, learning and having fun with the coaches.
“I really loved this camp. I learned new tricks and I also learned how to pass better,” said Bean Butler, 12, who said she wants to play soccer through high school and beyond. “The coaches are cool. They say things different than we do, so sometimes we make fun of them. But we’re only joking — we love them.”
The GYSA is also sponsoring the Excel Futbol Club Free Soccer Camp 2012 next month. The camp dates and places are: July 25-City Park, July 26-Fairmont Park and July 27-Tyus Park from 9-11 a.m. Register in-person or online at www.spaldingparksandrec.com.
All who pre-register get a free t-shirt and ball. For more info, please contact Joel Pasch at 770) 597-4869.