By Brandon BieltzJune 30, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Coaches from across the pond in England traveled to America to teach the Challenger British Soccer Camp through Friday on the fields between Chisholm Avenue and Huber Road.
For one week, more than 30 youths on post learned fundamental soccer skills from coaches who refer to the sport as "football."
The five-day camp, which began June 20, is hosted annually by the Schools of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration, and Skills at Fort Meade. Fees for participants ranged from $87 to $173, depending on age group.
"It's a different experience to expose the kids to," said Elizabeth Lombardo, the SKIES instructional program specialist.
The British Soccer camp has been hosted on Fort Meade since 2006. Lombardo said the young participants are excited to be coached by the British players.
"[The kids] have fun and laugh at their accents," she said.
Coach Jordan Philliskirk, who lives in northern England, said that while American football is popular here, soccer is the main sport in England.
"Back in England it's soccer, soccer, soccer," he said. "Since we're 4 or 5, we're taught by top coaches."
The experienced coaching staff included Kalu Uka, who competed with the Liverpool Football Club for six years. After not receiving a professional contract, the Liverpool native moved into coaching and sports management.
Each day of the intensive camp focused on a certain skill ranging from passing to heading the ball. To hone their skills, campers competed in various games and drills. Games such as "SpongeBob" helped athletes learn to dribble through obstacles, while "Doctor Evil" improved passing abilities.
"We're learning fun things," said Alex Montgomery, 6.
The fun and games continued into Friday when youths participated in a "World Cup" scrimmage to end the camp. Festivities featured homemade flags of countries such as Brazil and Germany, as well as face paintings supporting a nation.
Philliskirk said the soccer players worked on skills such as complicated turns.
"The kids have been great," he said. "They've tried really hard all week."
Through drills and games, the young athletes pick up skills and abilities that will help them in the upcoming season, said Philliskirk. Teaching the fundamentals at a young age, he said, is key to producing successful players.
"If you get them young enough and they're learning the right techniques young enough, then they have the chance to be very good soccer players," he said.
Elizabeth Koehler, 13, said she learned dribbling and juggling during the camp. The six-year veteran of the sport plans on putting her new skills to work in the fall season.
"Especially the dribbling to get past people," the Severna Park resident said.
Without preseason practice, it may take a few weeks or a month for athletes to return to a competitive level, Philliskirk said.
"By that time, it can be too late in the season," he said. "It's very important they carry on playing and practicing."
The coaches travel throughout the East Coast, periodically staying with host families and experiencing the American culture, Uka said.
"It's such a good opportunity [for us]," Philliskirk said. "You see the real America and the real people."
Having coached in the camp for three years, Philliskirk said he can see American youth catching up to other countries in soccer.
But Philliskirk worries that coaches may be to blame for the narrowing gap.
"We're really probably our own downfall -- coming over and passing on our secrets," he said.