Gabriela Pearson, sophomore at La Cueva High School, said one of the best things she’s learned while at the AYSO United goalkeeper & striker camp at Arroyo del Oso Park is just learning the basics. “I haven’t played soccer in a while so it’s good for keeping up with the basics,” Pearson said. “I can practice how to fall without injuring myself and just basic drills like when I first started.”
Brogan Wood, Desert Ridge Middle School student, said one of the things he learned from the coaches is “how to control the ball while in goal and how to punt better.”
The spring soccer camp started March 14 and is scheduled every Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. until April 25. Players have endured wind, rain and one cancelled session but still come out to learn from the AYSO United coaches and from UNM women’s club soccer players.
Callum Ralph, head coach for the UNM women’s club soccer team, AYSO United director of coaching and safety director for AYSO Region 104, said there are 72 players attending the camp and four coaches plus the UNM club players. The UNM women’s club team is an intramural team separate from the UNM women’s soccer program. On Monday there were three UNM club players helping to run drills including Maddie Lund, Zunyi Miller, and Brooke Halverson. Ralph said the club players rotate out each Monday so different teammates can help on the field.
When asked why the camp is important for kids Ralph said, “It’s important for growth, especially at a young age. Teach them the fundamentals of soccer rather than waiting years down the line – 12, 13, 14 years old – and they’re jumping into it and they don’t have an idea of what they’re meant to be doing. There’s more to being a goalkeeper than just saving goals. There’s a lot of stuff you need to learn – throwing, catching, distributing. Strikers as well. How do you kick the ball? Where do you kick the ball?”
Ralph, who is from Glasgow, Scotland and has a noticeable accent, added the camp provides a fun environment and good learning experience. “You’re getting coaches that talk funny and UNM women’s club that come out and support the program,” he said. When it comes to preventing injuries, Ralph said it is important to stretch and stay hydrated.
Wood and Pearson both said they had the most fun while scrimmaging at the camp. Wood said he hopes to play high school soccer, while Pearson said she doesn’t intend on playing for La Cueva but would like to join a league. Wood said his favorite soccer team is Liverpool FC and Pearson said she hopes to get into journalism. She said she is currently taking a creative writing class at La Cueva with teacher Michael Sanchez, which she said she is doing well at.
As far as the camp goes, Pearson said, “I’m just glad that it’s happening so I can go on further and keep my foundation strong.”