With the widespread popularity of the World Cup of Soccer in South Africa last year, and the women’s World Cup right now in Germany which saw Canada enter ranked #6 in the world – its highest ranking ever – soccer has perhaps never enjoyed more popularity throughout Canada than it does now.
Woolwich Youth Soccer, which has some 1,100 players registered this season, is primed to capitalize on that popularity later this month when it welcomes the British Challenger Soccer Camp to Elmira District Secondary School for a week-long camp from July 18-22.
“I just felt it was a great opportunity to bring in some really great coaching for our soccer club, and also the surrounding clubs as well,” said David Wang, the director of soccer development in Woolwich.
“We jumped at the opportunity as soon as we realized there was an opportunity to get them to come to Waterloo Region.”
The camp is for players from the age of 3 to 18, with skills and drills designed for their age group, from developing the fundamental skills in younger players through games and fun soccer challenges, to game-related techniques, tactics and more advanced skill development for the older players.
Children aged 3 and 4 can participate in a 45-minute program called first kicks for $75; players 5 and 6 years old can enroll in mini-soccer, a 90-minute program, for $90; and for players 7 to 18, there is a half-day program for $130 or a full-day program is $190.
“They are very keen on just developing soccer right across the board. From beginners all the way up to players who have played rep soccer for a while,” said Wang.
In a town where hockey is King, Wang said that soccer has started to make enormous gains and that the number of players in soccer now outnumber those playing hockey.
“It’s a sport that is definitely not as expensive to play,” said Wang of soccer, adding that many choose the sport because “parents are looking for an alternative that is affordable, but is really good exercise for their kids.”
The Challenger program started back in 1989 when a group of former professional and semi-professional players from the U.K. went to the United States and arranged the first camp. It now boasts 2,000 camps across North America and Australia, including 25 in Ontario alone and as many as 6,000 children across Canada are expected to enroll.
“The first thing, which is very important, is we want children to take away a very positive and rewarding experience,” said David Rush, northeast regional director for Challenger Sports.
“It’s one of the things we pride ourselves on is if you were to go to our soccer camp in California, Wisconsin, or Elmira, you’re going to get the same level of professionalism and you’re guaranteed a good soccer product.”
Wang said there are currently 25 players enrolled in the program and he hopes to get that number up to 40 or 50, and applications will be accepted until the camp opens on July 18. The program boasts a tremendous coach-to-player ratio of 10 players per coach, and should deliver tremendous bang for its buck, said Rush.
“As a player and a coach myself I always tell people I’m still a student of the game,” he said. “In one week, you can’t turn a child into a Pelé overnight, but you can ignite a real passion for the sport.”
Anyone from Waterloo Region can enroll and for more information on the camp visit www.woolwichyouthsoccer.com.