Young Knights test skills at recent youth soccer camp

Young Knights test skills at recent youth soccer camp

Image Credit: Dave Mast

Practice makes perfect, and the West Holmes School District soccer program took some small steps toward achieving perfection during its recent youth soccer camp.

More than 100 youth from first through eighth grade swarmed onto the varsity soccer field and practice field at West Holmes High School for youth soccer camp July 18-19, where West Holmes head boys coach Josh Wengerd and girls head coach Schuyler Snyder and their varsity team members coached up the kids.

The hope is they would make camp educational but fun, and in doing so, they can generate interest in building both programs in the future.

“It all starts here,” Wengerd said. “This is grassroots where the teaching of fundamentals starts. More importantly, it is where we can teach kids to enjoy the game. It’s neat to see the light come on and to see these kids translate the foot-skill drills we work on here at camp onto the field. It takes time, but it’s fun to see it all click.”

Wengerd said they were working on fundamental drills the kids can do at home on their own to improve foot skills. They also split into smaller groups where they could create some game-type situations, which is more competitive. They ended with a scrimmage, and Wengerd said the game is the best teacher and kids will figure a lot out simply by playing.

It’s just a matter of pushing them in the right direction. That push led to a massive number of kids participating for camp.

“We got to the first night of camp, and the number of kids who came out was almost overwhelming,” Snyder said. “We weren’t expecting that many kids, but that is always a lovely surprise.”

She said coaching varsity soccer included connecting the programs with community, which is exactly what the camp was accomplishing.

“To see this many kids and to look out across the fields and see our high school players connecting with them is awesome,” Snyder said. “It’s really encouraging.”

Snyder starred for Wengerd when he coached the Lady Knights soccer program several years ago. She said getting to coach alongside her coach and mentor is going to be an enjoyable experience, one they can both learn from as they build their respective programs.

“As a player for Josh years ago, he always talked about how we have to raise the bar from the bottom up,” Snyder said. “We have to start at the youth level. Josh has done a great job working with the youth the past few years, and I attribute so much of this to him and his willingness to reach out to the community.”

Wengerd said he couldn’t be prouder of the job Snyder has done in leading the girls program, and he said she was special during her playing days and has been in the coaching ranks. He said getting to grow the programs alongside her is a privilege.

Both coaches said camps like this that entice younger kids to work on the game are a must in developing the programs.

There is another obstacle, one they hope will be rectified next season.

A big factor in building the programs will be the implementation of a middle school team program in 2023. Both coaches said not having that critical step in the developmental process has been a major deterrent in keeping kids plugged into the program.

“It’s been this way forever,” Wengerd said. “Kids get to seventh grade, and they drop soccer because they want to be a Knight and we don’t have that middle school program for them to do, so right now we are a club soccer team. Next year we should have that middle school program in place, so I think that will help us keep our numbers up.”

Recently, that hasn’t been a big issue for the high school girls program, but the boys are currently struggling to find numbers to compete.