Increased visibility sparks local youth soccer involvement in World Cup year

By Matthew Davis

Sun Post Newspapers

 

Young people in America grow up watching sports stars such as LeBron James in basketball and Adrian Peterson in football.

As for soccer, the opportunity doesn’t grab a wide brush of youth’s attention the way those sports do. It certainly factors into the level of soccer success from the U.S. when youth in other countries around the globe see the sport often.

Hunter Zupke (left) and Hunter Askland (right) go for the ball in the Northwest Kickers soccer camp on Thursday, June 26. More than 220 youth participate in the Brooklyn Park-based soccer program. (Sun Post staff photo by Matthew Davis)

Hunter Zupke (left) and Hunter Askland (right) go for the ball in the Northwest Kickers soccer camp on Thursday, June 26. More than 220 youth participate in the Brooklyn Park-based soccer program. (Sun Post staff photo by Matthew Davis)

“That’s kind of the problem with American soccer,” Rebels Soccer Club coaching director Chris Schultz said. “They play, and they play, and they play, but they don’t watch.”

Schultz had that in mind when the club put together its first-ever independent camp in late June. With the camp at the Champlin Park High School fields, he had the campers go inside periodically to see soccer live on the big screen in the school’s auditorium.

“I think watching it makes them more excited to come out and play,” Rebels coach Rebecca Noonan said.

Watch time consisted of more than just rooting for the U.S.

“They see someone do a move, and they want to do it the next day when they’re out playing,” Noonan said.

Schultz and his staff also capitalized on timing with having their camp be a World Cup theme. Previously, the club which fields competitive teams for ages 12-19.

The Northwest Kickers soccer camp in Brooklyn Park has done likewise. They watched the U.S.-Germany game after practicing on Thursday, June 26. They had a lap top set up to watch the U.S.-Germany game, but technical difficulties led to participants resorting to watching the game together on their I-phones.

With the increased media coverage of soccer, whether it’s the Cup or professional across the globe, several of the campers already had familiarity with the stars of soccer.

“The coverage on TV is much, much more than it has been in the past,” Kickers coaching director Gordon Ferguson said.

Brody Ping, 12, for example, said his favorite team is Manchester United, a pro team from England.

“They’re wearing shirts with the guys’ names on the back,” Ferguson said.

Numbers have erupted for Kickers’ Little Kicks program this summer according to Ferguson. They now have 220 involved after just 80 last year.

“It just went through the roof,” Ferguson said. “That’s just basically, I think, part of the buzz and the excitement of it all.”

 

Contact Matthew Davis at matthew.davis@ecm-inc.com

 

up arrow