As the Sounders FC's footprint on the Seattle community has grown, so has the presence of the club's youth camps. This summer they will be bigger than ever as they involve players from all over Washington and Idaho.
Ask any professional soccer player and they can tell you tales of their time as a youngster, toting around a soccer ball at their feet, finding fun in the beautiful game anywhere they could play it, whether it’s on lush green grass in a park, indoor carpeting in their living room, a makeshift dirt field or a paved road.
Along the way to reaching the pro level, they all inevitably got instruction from different coaches along the way and often the best players get that training at a young age. That is where the Sounders FC summer camps come in, as kids all around Washington and Idaho have a chance to train under the watch of coaches chosen by Sounders FC.
“You want kids to learn the basics and you want them to fall in love with the game. That’s why I still play today,” said Sounders FC defender Zach Scott. “In the end, it’s just a game where you’re chasing a ball and trying to score.”
Like the team itself, the camps have grown dramatically in recent years as the game of soccer continues to grow in the region and the desire for greater coaching has become paramount.
The camps have grown from the roots planted by the Sounders in the USL, picking up on the heritage of the NASL era. Scott is among a group of former USL players that continue to have a hand in the camps. As is Sounders FC director of camp programs Mike Morris, who played with the Sounders in the USL in 2007 and 2008.
His experience working at camps as a coach during his time with the Sounders and at Seattle Pacific University, where he served as team captain during his senior season, got him started in the program that he now oversees. In that time, he’s seen the camps grow in all aspects. Not only has the number of campers grown – and the number of coaches and directors to maintain a ratio of about 12 campers for each coach – but so has the reach of the program.
There are camps all around Seattle and they also extend as far north as Bellingham, south to Olympia and east to the Tri-Cities, Spokane and now into Idaho in Post Falls, so kids as young as four and as old as 15 from all over the region have the chance to learn from the coaches and have fun along the way.
The majority of the coaches are local collegiate players, Sounders FC Academy players, as well as coaches in the area and Sounders alums.
“It’s an all-encompassing camp curriculum. Players are learning how to play, but coaches are also taught how to coach,” Morris said. “We lay out exactly what the goals are with each age group.”
Each session includes giveaways, too.
Group Health talks about healthy living and provides prizes for campers who have studied their handouts. Subway puts on a skills challenge and two campers are selected from each camp that go into a raffle to win free Subway for an entire year.
“It started out as a ball and a t-shirt. Now we’ve included things like a lunchbox, scarves, tickets to games, and chances to meet players at every camp,” Morris said. “Kids will leave camp every day with an item.”
The Sounders FC camps pride themselves on structure and organization, making sure that each camper has an optimized experience, grouping players in the same age and skill level.
That starts at the youngest level with the four-to-six year old players.
“They’re beginning so we give them just a taste of it. We tie in imagination and game play as well as teaching basic motor skills,” Morris said. “As the kids progress, we still keep it fun, but it starts to get more serious and structured.”
Scott and other Sounders FC players visit the camps, too, which is a perk for Scott who also brings his children along to learn at the camps.
“To be honest, it’s one of the things I really like about this job – going out and talking to kids. They’ll tell it exactly how they see it,” said Scott. “That’s what soccer is in its truest form – the passion those kids bring.”
Camps are underway around Washington and Idaho beginning June 10. Sign up by clicking here.