Sanibel youths learning the sport of soccer is a fun ordeal
By BRIAN WIERIMA
The sport of soccer is considered the most popular in the world, with the exception of the United States.
But that notion is being challenged, as soccer is taking root in the U.S., especially with the youth of America turning towards the sport.
Sanibel Recreation Center hosted the Challenger Sports Summer Soccer Camps June 8-12, as 17 youths participated in the detailed camp.
The two coaches, Scott Hambleton and Jordan Sedgewick, both hail from the United Kingdom and each have been multi-year coaches in the summer soccer camps.
Hambleton was impressed with the talent the island has in soccer, and said the sport has a strong base in Florida, as well.
“Florida is big in soccer,” Hambleton said. “Soccer will be the biggest sport in America very soon. There’s just been great participation. But there’s definitely always been a handful of talented soccer players at each camp and Sanibel is no different.”
The Challenger Soccer Camps are run all over the U.S., with 450 different camps being held in the Southeast alone. There are 1,200 soccer coaches who help run the camps, all from the U.K. and Brazil.
Nationwide, the Challenger Camps attract more than 150,000 youth, aging from three to 18 years old.
“We want them to have a lot of fun and leave camp with a smile on their face,” Hambleton said. “But we still want them to learn the game and skills. I hope they learn something new everyday. We aim for dribbling Monday, passing Tuesday, shooting Wednesday and some defending on Thursday and then we bring it all together and play a fun game on Friday.”
With 17 Sanibel participants in hand, Hambleton and Sedgewick taught more than just the basics, since many of the players were well above that level already.
“We had four kids do 10 levels of skill within 10 minutes of the first practice,” Hambleton said. “Normally, it takes two to three days to accomplish that. These kids can strike the ball well and the passing they have displayed is one of the best I’ve seen in one of my camps.”
The goal next year when the Challenger Camp returns is to triple the attendance and potentially stretch it into a two-week camp, Hambleton added.
Hambleton and Sedgewick teach week-long camps all summer, traveling from destination to destination on a weekly basis. Hambleton alone has visited 17 different states the last two summers, but Sanibel was definitely a unique stay.
“It’s definitely very hot, probably double of what it is in England,” he said. “But the beaches and sunsets are amazing, it’s just a very beautiful place. We were sitting on the tip of Sanibel and seeing the sunset and watching the dolphins, and I asked myself, ‘How did I end up here? It’s just amazing.'”
Hambleton has seen firsthand the rise of soccer in the youth ranks in the U.S. and eventually it will spread more into the mainstream as these youth grow up involved in soccer.
“This is the generation where you want to make an impact,” Hambleton said. “I would love to see one of my students to be on a U.S. soccer roster or hear the reason why they started soccer was because of one of our camps.
“It pains me to say this, but I think the U.S. will win the World Cup before the U.K., because it is growing here.”
To learn more about Challenger Soccer Camps, visit www.challengersports.com/.