Kicking It With The Junior Patriots

Soccer stars of tomorrow take part in annual Wheeling Park camp

Photo by Kyle Lutz Maggie Miller, 9, and Rhett Frangos, 10, go after a loose ball during a scrimmage during the Junior Patriots Soccer Camp.

WHEELING — It’s true when they say that sports can bring people together and create a stronger bond. This week was no exception as the Junior Patriots Soccer Camp, which had an estimated 80 campers, wrapped up its third day Wednesday at the Wheeling Park soccer fields.

Today will be the final day for the yearly camp and Wheeling Park girls’ soccer coach Carrie Hanna has enjoyed the ride this week.

“I think the most important goal of our camp is to make sure that this is led by our high school soccer players,” Hanna said. “Just to provide a fun, safe learning environment where they can have a good time with friends, learn a little bit about soccer and connect with some of the older players.”

While Hanna and the coaches are there for support, it is members of the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams that head the different group activities for the campers. And not only are the kids making memories that will last a lifetime, the Patriots players are making memories and also teaching the younger generation a sport that they are passionate for.

“It’s super enjoyable for us as counselors to be able to show them how we play soccer and I honestly say it’s a super fun week for us,” Daisy Reasbeck, who will be a senior this upcoming year, said. “We just have a good time with these kids and show them something that we love and share that with them. It’s really cool to see them grow throughout the week and learn those skills.”

The camp starts out with a group demonstration where they have a skill of the day. On the first day, the skill was dribbling while Tuesday’s theme was striking. Wednesday was ball control. Today, Hanna said there will be relay races and fun games for the campers.

When the campers spilt up into groups, popular soccer games are played such as World Cup and Shoot and Save.

World Cup is a game where its teams of two and their team name is a country. There can be one or multiple balls in play and when a team takes a shot at the net, they have to yell their country’s name. If a goal is scored, they move on to the next round. The remaining two teams that don’t score, are eliminated.

Shoot and Save has a bit of a ‘Knockout’ feel to it. The campers lineup in a single file line and shoot a ball on goal. If they make the shot, they go back in line. However if they miss, they must go in goal and block the next person’s shot. If they do, they remain in the game. If they don’t, they are eliminated.

“I think a lot of the kids like to come to the camp because the high school kids are kind of who they look up to,” Wheeling Park boys’ assistant coach Bill Konkle said. “They enjoy seeing and learning from them. It’s a little easier for them to pick up the skill set and things like that that they are doing.”

Not only is it a pleasure to see the kids have a great time, Hanna marvels at the fact that so many of the high school teams come out and volunteer.

“It’s absolutely phenomenal,” Hanna said. “I don’t know how long the camp was before I became head coach. It was just run on the girls’ side for the Lady Patriots. After the first year being here and it being just girls, I’m like, ‘(boys coach) Mario (Julian), we need to get together on this. It’s a great opportunity for the high school kids and to have boys and girls here together. The commitment that our student athletes have to the younger players and engaging in the community is phenomenal.”

The camp, though, is not just an opportunity for the campers to make memories. The players, also will also gain memories as well as friends throughout the week. The ties they have made throughout the week will not be cut when the camp concludes as the campers and players will run into each other throughout the next couple of months.

“It’s super awesome because we’ll have these kids come out to our games later on throughout our season,” Reasbeck said. “They still remember our names and still cheer us on and occasionally we’ll see them on their local club teams. It’s really cool to see them. It’s definitely a bond outside of this, which is cool.”

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