Morgan rec department hosts soccer skills camp

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By Justin Hubbard


Bill Wood Park in Madison played host to another summer sports camp last week.

The Morgan County Parks and Recreation Department hosted its annual youth soccer camp last Monday through Thursday. It was directed by Morgan County High School boys varsity soccer coach Aaron Paul and several members of the Bulldogs squad.

In total, the camp welcomed 37 participants. Their grade levels ranged from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“It's everybody. It's a big mixture,” Paul said. “This year, I felt like we had a lot of younger kids, a lot of more elementary-aged kids than we did middle school kids, which is fine. In the past, it's kind of been even with middle school and elementary school kids. But this year, I felt like there were a lot more elementary school kids.”

The age of the camp attendees widely varied and so did their hometowns.

“There were some from all over the place,” Paul said. “A lot of them, obviously, were from Morgan. I've got a kid who's been coming for the last three years who's actually from Texas. His grandparents live here in Morgan County so he comes in every year to visit and he comes to this camp. Then, I've had a few kids come from the Conyers/Covington area and I think I've even had a kid or two come from Oconee. I've got quite a few coming from all over the place.”

Paul said he was happy to see the attendance barely decrease from last year. The 2017 camp attracted 42 children.

“If we had gone from 42 to 22, I'd be a little worried,” Paul said. “It's one of those situations where we always do it the last week of June but, if people are out of town, that's one thing we can't really control.”

Rising senior Ben Adams helped lead the camp, as did Collin Sitzmann, Connor Clark, Grayson Jarman and Finn Williams. Recent MCHS graduates Nick Seymour and Carlos Hernandez returned to help teach the campers, too, as did a couple of rising freshmen.

Paul said he was happy to see a chunk of his high school roster turn out to assist during the camp. He felt as if the players had the greatest effect during the sessions.

That was never more apparent to Paul than last Thursday when storms rolled through the area and forced those at the camp to be extra cautious.

“I don't expect everybody to be here but it's good to have at least six or seven,” Paul said. “They did great. In fact, [Thursday], I was talking with the rec department about the weather and watching it and, for the first hour, Ben Adams ran the camp without me. I was kind of watching. They do a great job. I think my guys have just as much fun, if not more fun, than the little kids.”

Paul said the main goal of the camp, his fourth with the MCPRD, was teaching young kids the fundamentals of the game. They practiced at various stations throughout the week to hone their dribbling, passing and shooting skills.

To mix things up and keep the players more engaged, Paul and the high school players also broke the campers into teams and led scrimmage games.

Those at the camp battled hot and humid weather conditions most of the week. They also faced their share of rainy weather.

Paul said despite the sometimes bad conditions, the camp participants rarely let up.

“They kind of go, go, go, go, go. They don't really stop,” Paul said. “Some of them are really competitive and they won't stop for anything, even the rain. We only had about eight kids that just didn't want to play in the rain but we had two full-on games going during the downpour and they didn't want to stop. As long as there's no lightning and they don't mind getting wet, they didn't want to stop.”

Paul has helped lead the MCPRD soccer camp since he was hired at MCHS.

Since then, Paul said he has seen an increased interest in soccer throughout the county.

“We have kids who have been coming every year and we have relationships with those kids,” he said. “Their parents were telling me that they've started coming and watching the high school games, which is huge. That's kind of the whole point of doing this is to have a total program from rec department all the way through the high school. They know my guys and they see my guys out in the community. They talk to them, they go to church with them, they see them around town. Building that relationship is what it's all about and they're having fun doing it.”

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