Messenger photo by Mike Munden
“Were at soccer camp, baby!
Now, read that line again with a British accent.
That—and a lot more like it—is what 62 Madison County area kids heard June 21-25 as five soccer coaches from London, England, taught them a thing or two about what the rest of the world calls "football."
The camp and its coaches were a departure from the usual offerings in London, Ohio.
“I have done skills camps here in the summer for 12 years, said local resident and soccer enthusiast Jeff Stiffler. When he learned about the British program, he decided it was time for a change.
Based in the United Kingdom with a U.S. hub in Kansas, Challenger Sports sends 800 professional British youth soccer coaches to camps in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The coaches spend two to three months traveling from camp to camp, staying with host families and teaching kids ages 6 to 17 technique, skills, team-building and, indirectly, a bit about England.
As for introducing the international program to Madison County this summer, the timing couldnt have been better, Stiffler said.
Since June 11, the worlds attention has been focused on the World Cup in South Africa. So, while the kids in Madison County were soaking up everything soccer and even a little culture at camp, people around the planet (and maybe even in the campers own homes) were doing the same, tuning their televisions to coverage of the end-all-be-all of soccer competition.
The Kronk family of London got an extra dose of immersion, hosting two of the visiting coaches in their home for the week.
Garrett Kronk, 13, said his guests enthusiasm for the sport left a big impression.
“Its just how they talk about soccer. When they were watching the England game, they talked really fast about all the players. It was like they were their best friends, said Garrett, who is returning to soccer this year after playing football (the American version) and running cross country the last three years.
Joe Medcalf, the lead coach for the Challenger group that visited Madison County, explained his and his fellow countrymens enthusiasm this way:
“Ive played soccer all my life. Everybody in England does. We basically only see one sport as the sport—soccer.
Medcalf has traveled with the Challenger program the past two summers. While in the U.S., his home base is Cincinnati. From there, he travels to camps within a six-hour radius.
“It differs from area to area with the enthusiasm a community has for soccer, he said.This has been a great bunch here. They all seemed to enjoy camp.
Miller Kronk, Garretts brother, can attest to that. The best parts of camp, he said, were the open game at Converse Park in West Jefferson, dinner with the coaches at Los Mariachis in London, and the Austin Powers movie-inspired passing game that involved dance moves. Miller, 10, has played soccer since he entered Stifflers kinder-kickers program at age 3.
Jakob Friend, 9, also got a kick out camp. Like the Kronks, his family played host to two of the imported coaches. While he enjoyed his guests humor and learned thatits very cold in England, Jakob also found out something new about himself.
“I learned how to handle the ball more, and I didnt think Id be this good, he said.
Based on the response to this years camp, Stiffler said he plans to bring the British invasion to London, Ohio, again next summer.