Remember to check your shoulder for a defender. Begin to turn before you get the ball to go upfield. Angle your body to keep a defender away.
Bob Moullin has assembled his group of players at the Shattuck-St. Mary’s community soccer camp in a shady spot at the Faribault Soccer Complex. It’s time to run through some of the basics.
After the Mini Kick Camp wrapped up from 6 to 7 p.m., he starts off the final hour from 7 to 8 with ages 9 and up. On this night, they’re going through the basics of controlling the ball.
Each day of the five-day camp has a brief side session where players can watch, learn and try out their skills in demonstrations with instructors.
SSM rising senior soccer player Cade Thomson is a camp coach who doubles as a willing guinea pig in demonstrating the aformentioned ball control checkpoints.
Moullin, who is a U15 boys assistant coach and boys soccer admission liaison with the school, has run these camps for nearly a decade.
He’s kept to a routine that gives players enough instruction and drillwork to digest in a day before yielding the way to scrimmage and further the love for the game.
“If you just scrimmage, they could be doing things wrong. So we show them how to pass. And just because we showed them yesterday doesn’t mean they’re going to be brilliant,” Moullin said. “We did a bit of control; how do you stop a ball? Tomorrow we’ll do a bit of shooting in the goal just to show them each skill. We’ll do a bit heading, controlling, shooting, passing, dribbling. By the end of the week they’ve done most of the technical skills they’ll need in a game.”
Assisting at the camp on this Wednesday night were Faribault High School coach and SSM alum Maddie Justin, SSM U15 girls coach Vickey Vargas and Thomson.
Vargas noted the camp offers players a chance to improve individual skills away from the traditional team setting.
“I think most of my memories come from camps like this when you’re actually on the ball and you can really try new things and get taught new things maybe you don’t normally do at home,” Vargas said. “You learn what can I do by myself if I don’t have a bunch of teammates with me or if I have a couple friends that are free these are some games we can do together. So it’s nice when adults aren’t around to know what I can do to play soccer and get better.”
Thomson, who hails from Chanhassen and moved in recent years to Northfield, has been around coaches throughout his life and already has experience coaching in multiple communities.
“I hear a couple of them like ‘He plays for Shattuck!” and it’s kind of touching. Then they’ll ask how I do stuff and how I get where I am right now. I just give them a bunch of advice,” Thomson. “It kind of warms my heart when they ask how to do something because they’re actually trying to learn. There are some kids who are just like ‘Oh, let’s go scrimmage’ and there are some who want to come out here and learn.”
Mixing in a bit of competition into drills tends to resonate well with campers.
“One of the favorites, they start at the goal post and sprint around a cone halfway out. Then they battle for a ball to shoot and depending how far out depends how many points they get,” Vargas said. “It doesn’t matter how fast you are because some are so concerned with scoring they still have time to get back and defend and they get competitive. You see them break out of their shell a little bit, so it’s a nice icebreaker for them as well.”
The camp this year assembled approximately 50 players. The group skewed female this year as some boys opted out of the camp or missed days due to concurrent state soccer tournaments ending in the last week.
Turn-out at the high school level has also been higher with girls.
SSM also offers community camps for eight-week stints in September-October and January-February. These are led by approximately a dozen SSM boys and girls soccer players who volunteer to coach.
Skill level is not a requisite to attend. Willingness to learn is.
“I’d say a big thing at this age is teaching them to lock their ankle,” Thomson said as an example. “Because when they kick the ball it’ll be all floppy and it can go anywhere. I was throwing balls to them where they’d volley it back with the inside of their foot. Seeing one kid mess up five or six times and I told him to keep at it and I showed him exactly what to do. The next time I threw it to him and he nails it. That feels good. It’s actually teaching.”