HAMPTON — The start of a six-week program began on Wednesday at Winnacunnet High School as the Warrior soccer players of the present trained with the Warriors of the future.
More than 160 boys and girls, between kindergarten and eighth grade, gathered at Winnacunnet for the third annual Warrior Soccer Camp with varsity soccer coaches Nick O’Brien and Nick Rowe and members of their respective girls and boys programs at the third annual Warrior Soccer Camp.
“First and foremost, we are about having fun,” said O’Brien, who will be entering his fourth season as head coach of the Winnacunnet girls program. “We want these kids to have a love for the game, loving soccer, and wanting to not only improve, but just enjoying it.”
The program will run each Wednesday for the next five weeks from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
“We want these kids to want to come back and I think that's the thing we try to stress the most,” O’Brien said. “We want to make it fun and teach them some of the basic skills so they can consistently improve.”
Kids who missed Wednesday’s first training session can still join and are welcomed to join when they can. The cost is $50 for the full six-week program, and kids can sign up with any of their youth soccer programs, including Hampton Youth Association, Hampton Attack or North Hampton Sting.
“We want to draw as many kids as possible,” O’Brien said. “We want to keep the cost low so we can really make sure we get everyone in here who wants to be here. We had a great first turnout. There was good enthusiasm, and a lot of kids had a lot of fun; just a great showing.”
The kids are placed in appropriate age groups and coaches and high school players lead them through drills and games.
“We start out every session with a big circle drill,” O’Brien said. “We all go in and do kind of goofy stuff, and at the same time we are teaching them how to change direction with the ball, using the inside part of their foot; simple, basic stuff.”
Kids between kindergarten and third grade play games such as Stuck in the Mud and Sharks and Minnows which teaches them “basic skills without them even knowing it.”
Older kids do drills that are more guided toward high school soccer whether it be small-sided games and other technical facets of the game.
O’Brien and Rowe, after the two-hour session with the kids, have a training session with their respective teams. O’Brien recalls seeing a couple of his incoming freshmen at the camp’s first two years.
“It's funny seeing them now coming in as freshmen and basically coming full circle,” O’Brien said. “That will get even better as the years go on when these girls are coming up from the kindergarten and first grade.”
The training sessions with the kids serve valuable purposes beyond just improving their soccer skills.
“The kids get to know us coaches and they can feel comfortable with us,” O’Brien said. “But, I think even more than that, they are making the connection with the girls on the team. They want to be like Kyle Arsenault, they want to be like Brenna Bushe or Serena Kollmorgen; these younger kids really want to connect with our varsity players.”