Approximately 60 aspiring soccer players spent four nights "Kickin' It with the Mules" at the Solanco Soccer Camp.
Boys and girls entering kindergarten through sixth grade honed their skills June 24-27 under the direction of Solanco High coaches and players.
"It's just a really great week for building relationships and rapport between the younger kids and the older kids," Solanco girls soccer coach Ken Yoder said.
"Trying to build some tradition within the program. You have fourth and fifth grade girls who are looking up to the high school girls. We break it up into skill levels and try to make it fun for them. It's not super formal. It's just to encourage them to get out and enjoy the game of soccer and start to develop that love for the game. Hopefully, with the programs in place in school and Solanco Youth Soccer program, they're getting the more technical training. A little bit of that goes on here but mostly it's an evening camp for them to come out and have fun."
Yoder focuses on fundamentals. "The biggest thing that I always encourage is very basic, general ball skills. Learning to be comfortable with the ball using their feet," he said. "That's so important, so foundational when you move on to the higher levels. If you're comfortable with the ball at your foot, it becomes second nature. That's where everything starts. Of course, we want to encourage the proper passing techniques, trapping the ball. That all comes into play with the ball control. That's the basic foundation. We're giving them some practical things. They all got a soccer ball. They all got a cool t-shirt. They can take the ball that they got and do these drills in their backyard. It's stuff they can take home and do on their own."
Incoming sophomore Graci Unger, who attended the camp while in grade school, says the camp works. "When I participated in it I got better foot skills," Unger said. "I learned how to dribble better It was the basics, but it really helped."
Unger, who played on the Mules varsity as a freshman, says serving as an instructor has helped improve her communication skills.
Her main message to the younger girls: "If you mess up, it's ok," she said. "They get frustrated sometimes, but you just tell them to keep trying."
Solanco boys varsity soccer coach Jamie Snyder says the camp is a big boost to his rebuilding efforts.
"It's an opportunity for the kids to get more skilled in soccer," Snyder said. "The better the pipeline is for young players, the better it is for me when they get to my level. Right now, we're rebuilding the high school team. We're in the second year of rebuilding it so anytime you get this many kids out, it's definitely a bright sign that the things to come are going to be good."
A second session will be held August 5-8 for students entering seventh through 12th grade. That camp is open to anyone in that age group but is typically comprised by players in Solanco's junior high and high school programs.