They came with excitement, kids ages 4-15, shin guards strapped to their small shins, covered by long soccer socks, ready to either learn all about soccer or continue to build on their skills at Candlewood’s first ever summer youth soccer camp in Lincoln.
Unlike other soccer camps in the area, this one was offered free of cost to support the Lincoln community and Candlewood families. Most of all, it was an opportunity to reach out to the youth and their families with the goal to form friendships and bonds within and outside the church. After all, one’s of Candlewood’s core values is to care for our community, and as the church kicked-off the Building Together Campaign this past April with one of the visions for community impact to show God’s love to others and develop ties to our community, the youth soccer camp was one way to begin this mission.
So each Saturday, 35-45 young footballers, a mix of Candlewood Kids and kids from the neighborhood, divided into their respective age groups (4-6, 7-9, and 10-15 years old), saw their coaches and ran up to their areas to begin the day. Coaches were Candlewood members with soccer experience and knowledge of the game while the assistant coaches were willing servants, who simply wanted to make a difference in the community.
Each one-hour session began with warm-up exercises, running from one end of the field to the other end or running around a field; or in the case of the 4-6 age group, they warmed up by playing Sharks and Minnows. After warm-ups, the focus turned to soccer drills that taught the fundamentals of passing, dribbling, and shooting followed by a scrimmage.
There was nothing quite like a 10-minute soccer game of little four to six year olds all at once chasing after the ball, kicking it with no sense of concept of the game, except to go towards a goal, even if it meant taking it away from a teammate and shooting towards the wrong goal. But for the record, by the last two weeks of the soccer camp, those kids of Flash Soccer, the young ones of 4-6 years old, had a better idea of soccer. They kicked harder, dribbled better, and took shots at the right goal with confidence. Basically, they were pros.
The Brave Soccer group, ages 7-9, went from playing as individuals to working as a team by passing the ball and creating scoring opportunities. Many of the scrimmages came down to the end with a last minute goal to break a tie. By the end, they had a love for the sport, eager to improve their skills. In fact, many asked to continue the camp and were sad it ended. However, they are looking forward to next year!
Then, there was Sporting Soccer, the 10-15 year old group, and the curiosity of pre-teens towards all aspect of the game thrilled their coaches. They eagerly tested their abilities to handle the ball with each drill, and they embraced soccer terminology introduced to them such as “man-on,” something that is said to a player when there is pressure coming from another player to take away the ball. These young footballers had a desire to learn, and they left with a budding new love for the sport.
Soccer is known as “The Beautiful Game,” and there was nothing more beautiful this summer than being a part of this youth camp, seeing young kids learn the skills of soccer and for Candlewood to develop roots within the neighborhood as we build together for an even greater impact.