This week, the local youth interested in the sport got a chance to learn more about soccer from coaches and players on the high school level.
The Calhoun High boys and girls soccer programs teamed up with the Calhoun Community Education program to once again offer its annual youth soccer camp.
The camp started on Monday at the River Park Soccer Complex and wraps up tomorrow. Campers were divided into two groups, the 3-5 year-olds from 9-10 a.m. and the 6-12 year-olds from 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
“We think this is a good camp for the local kids interested in soccer, and this is the fourth year we’ve done it,” said Calhoun boys coach Matt Rice. “For the early group is more about introducing them to soccer and just letting them have some fun with it. For the older group, we focus a little more on fundamentals and working on some skills with them.
“We really just want to help grow the local rec department soccer programs which will eventually filter into the local club teams.”
There were close to 20 campers in the 3-5 year-old group and then over 30 in the 6-12 year-olds.
Rice along with his father, Randy Rice the Calhoun High girls soccer coach, and Calhoun Middle Soccer coach Matt Veal are the main instructors for the camp. The three have been helped this week by a combination of 19 boys and girls players from the varsity programs.
“(Having the high school players here) is such a difference maker,” said Matt Rice. “We can get the kids more individual attention by pairing a few with each of the high school players. That allows them to do more hands-on coaching, and it lets me, my dad and Matt (Veal) float around to all the groups and help where we need to.
“The high school kids really do a great job helping us, and they apply what they’ve learned to help the kids at camp.”
Rice said it is great to see and be able to work with the kids at camp because it gives him a chance to see the next generation of local soccer players.
“That’s a big thrill for me,” said Rice. “Every year we have kids that come back that have been in camp before, and we get to see how much they’ve improved. And then there’s the new kids that come into camp and surprise us with what they already can do.
“It’s really fun to be able to work with all the kids at camp. We want them to learn to love the game of soccer and hopefully eventually be Yellow Jackets.”
The camp proceeds are used as a fundraiser for the high school programs. Both the boys and girls teams are coming off solid seasons.
The boys’ team advanced all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to eventual state runner-up Blessed Trinity.
The Lady Jackets also made a state playoff appearance, falling in a tough first-round game to North Oconee, 2-1.