Camp has a ball with skills

Jun. 19, 2013 @ 06:15 PM

Soccer is growing at a good clip in Lee County. On most weeknights and Saturdays throughout the year, hundreds of kids are in action at the Lions Club fields in Sanford Area Soccer League games.

“A lot of people don’t know how big soccer is in this little, bitty town,” said Brent Sloan while taking a brief breather from coaching, which needed just as much running around as any of the kids, at the first-ever Sanford Elite Soccer Academy 2013 Summer Soccer Camp Wednesday morning at Lee Christian School.

Sloan and fellow coach, and fellow SASL volunteer, Duran Johnson, founded the new academy in April. They’re trying to supply the many soccer players, from beginners up to high school, travel and potential college players, with something which hasn’t sprung up in Sanford yet, despite the sport’s popularity.

Many kids, and hence parents, trek back and forth to the Triangle or Triad areas for individual training, Sloan said. That’s where Sanford Elite Soccer Academy wants to come in and that’s where this week’s camp at Lee Christian was focusing on individual skills, such as footwork and passing, more than team-wide aspects of the game.

Younger kids are at the camp in the mornings, before it gets too hot. Older kids are on the field in the evenings.

“Even the older kids told us they’re getting something out of it. We’re pushing them harder and doing more advanced work, but I think they were tired at the end of the day,” Sloan said.

The camp’s had plenty of fun as well. Following a halftime popsicle break, two mascots from Sweet Frog in Sanford played goalie for a penalty kick shootout. Chick-Fil-A’s cow came out to play Tuesday morning. Frogs and cows haven’t been part of the evening sessions.

Players from the SASL U18 Lightning, which will be playing in the N.C. Youth Soccer’s top league, at the Premier level, starting in August, were leading drills for the younger kids.

“It helps them as well,” Sloan said, “I think it gives them the opportunity to see the coaching side’s a little different than the playing side.”

SASL has a good contingent of campers, but nowhere near all the kids are in SASL, Sloan said. Lee Christian has a good-sized squad out, too.

“(Lee Christian) saw a need, too,” Sloan said. “They’ve been very gracious with everything they’ve done.”