Kickin’ it: Kids chase down fun at Stingers soccer camp

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By Dan Johnson

It was a beautiful morning in Evergreen on July 27.

The sky was blue, the sun was shining, the mountains and trees were in full view, and the temperature was just right. A perfect recipe for summer fun.

And have fun they did.

From 9 to 11 a.m., a group of 20 or so kids between the ages of 6 and 12 gathered at Marshdale Elementary School to partake in the week-long Stingers Soccer Skills Camp. The youngsters ran through a bevy of drills that were all designed to not only teach the kids new skills but to get them outside and enjoying life.

"You try and make it challenging and fun at the same time," said Kyle Lineberger, the boys director of coaching at Stingers Soccer Club. "We're going to run the kids through a lot of different skills over the next week, and you don't want them to get disinterested."

Lineberger did his best to keep his group of youngsters engaged on July 27. He had the kids visit the zoo and abide by the green-yellow-red traffic lights. In the "zoo" drill, Lineberger instructed the students to dribble their soccer balls to specified areas on the turf. With the traffic light, students were to either go full-speed (green), slow down (yellow) or stop (red) on Lineberger's command. The handful of parents in attendance got a good laugh out of seeing their children try to stop on a dime while keeping control of the soccer ball.

Smiles were abundant, as all of the kids seemed to be fully engaged in the camp. Sure, the water breaks provided a window of time for the kids to discuss the latest movie or video game, but mostly the morning revolved around soccer. When it came time to buckle down and pay attention to instructions for the upcoming drill, the kids blocked out all distractions, listened intently and performed the technique to the best of their ability.

"So far, it's proving to be a really good group of kids," Lineberger said. "I'm impressed with their attention to detail."

Over the last decade, youth soccer has grown in popularity — especially in the Evergreen area. And for Kate Cortis, the new girls director of coaching at Stingers, that increase in popularity has led to surprising results on the pitch.

"The kids are so much further along than I was at their age," said Cortis, who has been with the club since the beginning of July. "They are bigger and better and becoming better players earlier in their careers."

Cortis' job on July 27 was to work with the kids ages 10 and up on more advanced dribbling techniques. Cortis had her students perform toe-taps with each foot, 360- and 180-degree turns while keeping the ball tight to the foot, and then the group worked on a one-on-one drill in which one kid tried to keep possession of the ball while another tried to steal it away.

"The big thing is getting them comfortable with transitions and using both feet," Cortis said. "To be a really strong player, you need to be comfortable with the skills we're teaching this week."

It's too early to gauge if any of the kids in attendance will be the next Landon Donovan or Freddy Adu, but what was easy to gauge on July 27 was their enthusiasm.

When asked if they were having fun, the kids responded in unison: "Yes!" Followed shortly by: "What are we doing next?"