Darkness Soccer Camp hones future stars

Laynie Brock dribbles the ball toward the goal during a scrimmage at the Darkness Soccer Skills Camp this past Wednesday morning. Brock was one of 125 children who attended the week long skills camp at Clinton High School, braving heat and humidity to hone their soccer skills.

If you passed by the Dark Horse Soccer Complex between 8am and noon this week you probably wondered what was going on. The field and all the surrounding areas were covered with children dribbling soccer balls or running through agility drills and even some practicing throw-ins, trying to spring the dunking booth target to drop the very willing camp staffer. All the ordered chaos was the fifth annual edition of the Darkness Soccer Skills Camp.

CHS Men’s Soccer coach Brad Spell has been putting on the camp each of the past four years and this fifth renewal is hosting 125 campers, grades K thru 8th. On this steamy Wednesday morning Spell was directing all the activities from high above the field in the press box. Coach Spell said, “what makes this camp go are the staffers. We use current and former boys and girls soccer players to staff the camp. This year we have roughly 20 kids that come out, give us a week of hard work to make this thing work.” And work they do. While I was there the staffers quickly transitioned the campers from doing skills and agility drills into eight or nine different live scrimmages in less than three minutes. CHS Athletic Traner, Mrs Warren was doubling as DJ in the press box while she kept an eye out for possible injuries and not missing a beat as she spun the tunes to keep the atmosphere lively.

The current players that serve as camp staffers receive tuition for their upcoming skills camp in return for the week of working the camp. Spell proudly stated, “we had 5 or 6 former players come back and help this year, with one going all the way back to the 2009 team. It is great to see all these guys come out and help the younger kids grow their skills.” The campers are divided into age groups with two or three staffers assigned to each group. The older players and former players are assigned to the middle school age group and the younger staffers get paired with the younger kids. It seems to be a mutually beneficial experience for both campers and staff.

Coach Spell stressed, as he watched the action below, “the purpose of the camp is to generate interest in the sport of soccer and keep the kids excited about the game. An additional benefit is you get to see what is coming down the pipeline as far as future talent, it helps keep our soccer program moving in the right direction.” Spell continued commenting on what the kids get from the camp, saying, “it’s not all about soccer though, we do spend a lot of time talking to the kids about being good citizens and good students.”

All the proceeds generated by the camp go back into the CHS soccer program. Spell added, “the camp has helped us install a scoreboard, build a ticket booth and purchase equipment for the program. The camp generates funding that is critical to helping grow the CHS soccer program, it really helps get us the equipment and facilities that we need.” Spell hopes that the camp will continue to grow, saying, “we felt like 125 was the max number of kids we could have but I think we may be able to shuffle things around a little and maybe get it up to 150 kids next year.

As the staffers transitioned the kids from drills to scrimmages I had a chance to talk with a couple of staffers about their experiences. CHS Senior Bailey Spell, who was working with K-5th graders, said “these little guys really bring the excitement, they make you want to come out here.” Dark Horse Junior Zach Darden said, “it is really neat working with the younger kids and helping them improve. I think there may be some future stars out here, especially in the second grade group, they have really impressed me so far.”

Possibly the most impressive thing about the time spent on the field was the orderly fashion in which every aspect of the camp was conducted. The organization required to keep 125 children on task and working smoothly in such a fast paced environment is a testament to the hard work of Coach Spell and his staff. From freshman soccer players to coaches and trainers everyone worked in unison to insure a great experience that packed tons of fun and learning into the week for all the campers.