Soccer clinics raise knowledge
For instructors with the Challenger British soccer program, the flow of knowledge goes in both directions.
Coaches spent last week tutoring dozens of young campers at the Camden PSA Soccer Complex, not only spreading the fun message of soccer but also soaking up some valuable experience and American culture.
Sporting the British Challenger colors last week were coaches Jean Mansosa, Ross Jones, Rhys Schuster, Ben Edwards and Liam Smith. Joining them was Wagner Willians e Silva, wearing the bright yellow jersey of the TetraBrazil program, also under the Challenger umbrella.
The coaches turned the fields into a grassy classroom where students could develop their on-the-ball skills and learn sportsmanship, responsibility, respect, and a sense of fair play. While all of these values have benefits on the field and elsewhere, there's no reason they can't be learned while having a good time, too.
“It’s great to see kids with a smile on their face, kicking a ball,” said the 18-year-old Edwards, from an area called Rhondda in Wales. “That’s the most rewarding part for me.”
Jones, 24, is a three-year Challenger veteran, and has served in Minnesota, Oklahoma and New England, among other places. Wanting to be an educator, the Telford, England, resident gets to satisfy two interests while teaching a sport he has enjoyed since age 6.
“Seeing the kids improve from Monday to Friday” is really huge, said Jones, who has been coaching since age 13. Putting instruction in easily understood terms is key, too.
Like several of his coaching mates, Schuster — whose first name rhymes with “peace” — learned about Challenger through school. This eagerly awaited U.S. visit is the first for the 20-year-old from Cardiff, Wales, who started playing around age 6, began coaching around 15 or 16, and is a lifelong Manchester United backer.
“Once you see the kids enjoying it, it spurs you on as well,” he said.
Smith, a 19-year-old student from Dublin, Ireland, concedes not a minute passes that he's not thinking about soccer.
“My favorite part of coaching is seeing a player progress,” he said. “You have to make the sport as enjoyable as possible.”
As part of his first trip to the U.S., Smith attended the July 4 match of the first-year Major League Soccer club Atlanta United, and was amazed by the “incredible” atmosphere. Closer to home, his Manchester United leanings clash with his family's support of rival Liverpool.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve enjoyed every minute,” he said.
As soccer is religion in Brazil, Silva, who lives in the southern city of Curitiba, started kicking a ball as soon as he was able.
“For me, amazing,” he said of coaching in America. “I love your culture.”
Several in the group are in their first years working with the Challenger network, taking advantage of a chance to broaden their coaching horizons.
Mansosa, a 20-year-old who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has spent most of his life in England, wants coaching to be a part of his future. Schuster, Edwards and Smith share similar thoughts.
“I want to be coaching as long as I can, whether it’s something like this every summer, or back home,” Edwards said.
“It’s definitely a career for me,” Schuster said.
While many sports fight for interest in the U.S., soccer is the undisputed most popular and followed sport in many countries. A couple of the coaches have tried others, but the pull of the global game is very strong.
Mansosa also played rugby and basketball at a younger age, but says of England, “every boy wants to play soccer. Everybody wants to play Premier League, that standard.”
By his own admission, Edwards, who began the game around age 3 or 4, has been willing to try about any sport, hoops and swimming just two of them.
Soccer can teach many things, and the coaches hope their unique perspectives will help their Camden pupils grow both in the sport and as people.
“We want to improve them off the pitch as well,” Schuster said. “We want them to remember it for a good reason so they want to come back.