SPORTS >>Pros visit, host British Challenger Soccer Camp
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
The annual Cabot Soccer Associ-ation’s professionally run Challenger British Soccer Camp was as big and as fun as ever for the city’s youthful soccer enthusiasts. Six European professional soccer players were on hand to teach the kids in the basic fundamentals of the game. The Challenger British Soccer Camp program sends about 600 professional soccer players to 1,700 camps across the United States each year.
It is the 10th year for the mostly British group of pros to tour the states teaching soccer, and Cabot camp director Mark Shackleton says the American kids are getting better and better at the most international of sports.
“They most definitely are getting better,” Shackleton said. “These kids here in Cabot are especially talented. I was just talking with (coach) Michael (Guest) about how the kids here in Cabot are among the most talented and knowledgable groups that we’ve ever coached at these camps.”
This year’s event was run by six English players and one from Trinidad in Tobago. Almost all of the coaches that participate in these camps come from Great Britain.
“Joel (Richardson) is the first we’ve had that’s not from our Great Britain,” Shackleton said. “We all come from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”
The Europeans make their camps much more than just drilling kids in soccer fundamentals.
“We absolutely want to make it as fun as it can be,” Shackleton said Thursday as he wore his body-length ephod wtih a life-size image of a bikini-clad woman that was mandated by his students.
His unusual wardrobe was donned because Thursday was “campers dress the coaches” day at camp, and the campers were very creative.
Joel Richardson of Trinidad dawned ferry wings and flippers to accent the pink bikini he wore over his team uniform. Another coached was dressed like a scarecrow while two others were put in drag, complete with hand bags and pink wigs, as they taught the basics of their craft.
On Wednesday, the campers got to concoct their own sports drinks for the coaches to sample after practice.
“That part’s always gets a bit yucky, but if the kids are enjoying themselves, enjoying being here and learning about soccer, we are and love it and are happy to do it,” Shackleton said.
The coaches also performed special skills and competed with each other in challenges after each day of practice.
This morning, the final day fo camp, the campers and Cabot Soccer Association coaches play a fun game against the British professionals.
Last year over 1000 children were involved in the Cabot Soccer Association’s fall and spring seasons. The CSA’s Sabrina Blankenship hopes that number continues to grow. The CSA begins registration for the upcoming fall season next Saturday.
Registration will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hibbett Sports in Cabot. For more information about registration or the CSA, contact Blankenship at 563-9838, or visit eteamz.com/cabotsoccer.