Gray Sutter and three of his friends — Nick and Cooper Brewen, and Turner Wells — all spent four days at UNC-Wilmington’s Soccer Camp this summer, learning new tricks, building new skills and making fun memories.
Gray also brought home the Camper of the Week award for his 13-14 age group.
The young man started playing soccer at the age of 4, with his dad, Chris, and Uncle Bill Warren, as coaches. He was a fielder until he turned 10. The goalkeeper for his team got hurt during a tournament and the coach (his dad) told him to take over the position and he’s been wearing the goalkeeper shirt ever since.
Gray is also a baseball player, but freely admits soccer is his favorite sport to play. “It’s a faster sport and I think it’s just more fun,” he said with a smile.
A rising eight-grader and Junior Beta Club member at Sampson Middle, Gray and his friends play for the Clinton United travel team and the Sampson Middle School team. Gray found out about the camp from his friend Nick, who attended last year.
Youth from all over the state attended the camp, including a boy from Russia who was spending the summer in North Carolina, and another young man who came all the way from Washington, D.C. just to attend the camp.
The camp was split into two areas of training, one for field players and one for goalkeepers, and since Gray is the goalkeeper he went to the camp specifically for the goalie training.
In talking about the camp, Gray said, “It taught me a lot about technique and how to play my position better.”
He said the worst thing about the camp was having to get up at the crack of dawn. “The goalies got up about 5:15 a.m., showered, dressed, and then went out to the field and began training until about seven,” he stated. “Everyone else has to be up about 7 a.m.”
Gray said there were five other goalies in his group and they shared three trainers.
Speaking about what he learned, Gray stated, “I already knew the fundamentals they went over, but they really helped me with some of my techniques on having a better chance at getting the ball, like on crosses, my positioning on the line.”
“I also practiced my timing on when to slide when someone is coming at you one on one,” he added.
His favorite part about the camp was the evening games. They trained from early morning until about 6:15 p.m., then they were divided up into teams and played against each other.
“I played for Croatia the first day, and we won our first game 5-4. There were more goalies than teams, so you trained one day so the other goalie could play. Then I was put on Italy’s team and we ended up winning the world cup,” he said with a smile.
Describing what he liked best about the camp, Gray said, “Playing the games at night, I got to see how other people play compared to how we play in Clinton. They have more touch and control the ball more, where we try to take the ball straight to the goal and score.”
It was a little harder to defend against, according to Gray. “There were more long shots than them running up on me,” he said.
All in all, Gray managed to bring home new skills and techniques for the soccer field as well as an award.
“I think it has helped me get a little bit better. I believe I can use these new techniques to help my team and I‘ll be practicing these things,” he asserted.
Gray’s parents, Frankie and Chris Sutter, were pleased with the skills their son learned in such a short time at the camp. They proudly showed an email from Zach Haines, the assistant men’s soccer coach at UNCW, which stated that the camp coaching staff felt Gray displayed an excellent work rate, positive attitude and demonstrated strong leadership qualities during the camp.