English coaches teach soccer proper

After a few mad strides Jaylen Knelsen delivers a swift kick for goal, surviving into the late rounds of an electrical game of lightning.

By Ben Ingram

Last week, kids of all ages took to the Lions Park field to hone their soccer skills under the guidance of three English coaches hoping to be ambassadors of the game in Meadow Lake.

Twenty-year-old coach Danny Whincup described it as “an opportunity to get involved and experience the English way,” where soccer is in many ways a lifestyle that compares to Canada’s hockey-dominated sport culture.

The five-day soccer camp was the first for Challenger Sports — hosting 1,500 of the camps in North America this year — to be held in Meadow Lake. The coaches hope it will spark the growth of popularity in the area, especially after the city’s first camp drew 30 young athletes.

One expected improvement they praised was the addition of a soccer field for the 2012 Saskatchewan Summer Games.

“That’ll be better…We’ve got an American football field here, you can work around it, but it’s not ideal,” Whincup said.

The three coaches, Whincup, Ross Jervis, 30, and 18-year-old Sharna Greenaway were recruited in England by Challenger Sports to tour the West hosting soccer camps in cities big and small. After impressing a coach in England enough to land the job, they were outfitted with one-year visas to entertain and teach kids from BC to Saskatchewan.

“We’re trying to teach them the basic skills they need in a fun way,” Jervis said. “At the end of the day, it’s still a summer camp.”

In the mornings the coaches led the kids on drills intended to be fun, like ‘Granny’s Cookies’ and ‘Lightning,’ where kids cycle taking shots and making saves at a rapid pace and are slowly eliminated.

Coach Sharna Greenaway forms a circle with her young athletes to teach them about their next soccer exercise. She said she hoped her fun-first style of coaching would mean "They're learning, but they're not realizing they're learning."

The coaches also sought to make the camps educational. While the kids were organized into four teams for the week, Bolivia, Netherlands, Japan and Uruguay, one morning exercise had them trade interesting facts about their countries in exchange for points.

“We do theme days, like dress the coach would be one of them, soak the coach another,” said Greenaway, who plans to begin her education in sports therapy at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff this fall. “If you said that to someone in England like ‘oh, we’re doing dress the coach,’ they’d be like ‘no I’m not. Teach me some soccer.'”

After she finishes her first year of university, Greenaway hopes to once again get involved hosting soccer camps in North America. For Jervis and Whincup however, the hope is to make good use of their one-year visas.

“I’m going to hopefully keep coaching, more on my own,” Jervis said. “Maybe go for a bit of skiing and home for Christmas.”

While Whincup plans to head home to finish his last exam in personal training, he said he might come back and meet up with Jervis.

“It’s nice to see what life is like in each province,” he said.

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