Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Favorite Athlete: Soccer Camp

Our Girl just finished a one-week soccer camp yesterday. The camp is run by Homer, father of a friend of hers. I shall call him Homer not because of any likeness with Mr. Simpson but because he is a great storyteller. One of many hats he wears is head girls' soccer coach at our local high school. He coaches at this camp in large part to foster interest in the game for his daughters and their friends. Due in no small part to his involvement, the camp has become a must on the calendar for the 4-6 year-old set in our area.

This is Our Girl's second time doing the camp. She did it two years ago and I was not at all convinced at the time that soccer was going to be a long-term interest for her. She enjoyed kicking the ball around but on the last day of camp, she wanted to stay home. It didn't help that we were doing swim lessons the same week but her resistance stood in stark contrast to her reaction to dance camp. On the first day of dance, I felt like I'd introduced her to the man she was going to marry. I had a strong feeling right away that dance was going to be a part of our lives for a long time. On the last day of that camp, she was sitting on our front steps ready to go 10 minutes before I was.

And so, we didn't pursue the idea of soccer camp with her the following year. I didn't think she really missed it until one day this past year, on the way home from school, she asked me, "Daddy, what team am I on?" Confused, I asked her to clarify and she told me that her friend (Homer's daughter) had been talking about her soccer team at school and she wanted to know what her team was. She was crushed to find out she wasn't on one! Therefore, in planning our summer, we brought the idea of soccer camp into the discussion and she was all for it.

Soccer camp is as much a gathering for the stay-at-home and home-for-the-summer parents as it is for the kids. There was, in fact, a group of moms with strollers who came every day to hang out together with their younger children. I prefer not to hover in such situations so most days, I went home. But I went for most of the last day to take photos, watch Our Girl and marvel at Homer's talents in child wrangling.

Homer also teaches the third grade and is, from everything I've seen, a highly-gifted educator. He brings a lot of creativity to coaching. For instance, if all of the kids start crowding around the ball, as is their tendency, he'll declare the ball a magnet ball and toss it out of the game in favor of a new one. To get kids to look up while they're dribbling, he holds his hands above his head for kids to shout out how many fingers he's holding up. He also plans downtime well, including snack breaks and a walk down to the river:

But when we asked Our Girl why she was looking forward to soccer camp, she said "Popsicles!" Homer very cleverly plans two popsicle breaks every day. Pavlov would be proud.

Our Girl had a great week. She was genuinely sad that yesterday was the last day so we're thinking about possibilities for the fall. According to Homer, she did well. As a teacher myself, I'm always happy just to know that she's a good listener. Any successes beyond that are a bonus. What impressed me in watching her is that she seems fairly comfortable with both feet. She definitely favors the right but doesn't shy away from the left. That was a major shortcoming for me as an athlete. I'm extremely right side-dominant. It's one of many reasons I liked playing goalie - it didn't really matter. But if she keeps practicing with both feet, she may not have those issues. But most importantly, it was great to see her having such fun with it.

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