Eight-year-old Elijah Smith takes a shot on goal during a drill at the Derby High School youth soccer camp this past week. The youth camp allows high school coaches to work with children outside of the teams they practice with during the school year.
Elijah Smith, 8, didn’t mind the heat as he spent four hot and dry evenings kicking soccer balls at a miniature goal this past week in front of Derby High School.
Normally, summer sports camps are focused on the incoming varsity team. For a younger generation of soccer players, like Smith, an incoming third-grader at Tanglewood Elementary, Derby’s youth soccer camp offered a younger age group the chance to shine in front of future coaches.
“We want to make sure they have fun, but still show them some of the drills we use at the higher levels,” said DHS soccer coach Robert Rhodes. “We break it up in different age groups out here. The older ages might drill a little longer and the younger kids focus on the fun of the sport. No matter what age, the camp has been a success.”
Rhodes and the rest of the varsity coaching staff have been doing a youth-only camp for the past three years. The staff still organizes a high school camp earlier in the summer. By doing them separately, varsity players can act as coaches and mentors for the youth camp, Rhodes said.
“The kids get to know the coaches and some of the high school players,” he said. “This gives the high school players a chance to be role models and even give back to the community.”
The youth camp featured more than 40 area children from 5 years old up to eighth graders.
“This year, we partnered up with the (Derby Recreation Commission) and we got a few more kids,” Rhodes said. “We had about 28 last year, so we’ve had a nice increase at the camp.”
With temperatures well above 100 degrees, Rhodes cut down the length of the four-day camp, but he said the players still learned a lot and worked hard despite the heat.
“The heat didn’t keep them away,” Rhodes said. “The kids still had a great time.”
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