PELL CITY — Three semi-pro soccer players from England visited Pell City this week, teaching more than 40 young players how to play and how to enjoy the game. The Pell City Parks and Recreation Department oversaw a Challenger Sports soccer camp that brought the players to town.
Billy Judd, Tracy Ann Jenkins, and Omar Rashid have been hosted by the Osborne family in Pell City after spending a week in two other states in recent weeks.
“You’ve got the Southern hospitality with really nice people,” Judd said. “The weather as well; the weather is super hot, but this week has been fine. The humidity level is a lot harder to work with, but the kids have been great. Being here from 5 to 8 (in the evenings) helps the kids as well.”
This marked an estimated fifth year for the camp in Pell City. Roughly 14 players participated the first year, with the number steadily growing, reaching more than 40 this year. There was only one coach during the first year of the camp. Most of the participants are Pell City residents, although some came from Trussville and Lincoln.
“It’s been a good experience for (the kids),” assistant athletic director for Pell City Parks and Recreation Wes Myers said. “I think there is a lot of improvement from Monday. They’re starting to learn a lot of things. Like I said, these guys come over from Europe every year. They know what they’re talking about and they’re really good with the kids. They’re on their level in how to teach it to them. A lot of the times you see teachers that are above the kids’ level and they don’t understand what’s going on. These guys know how to teach it at the right level.”
Challenger Sports provides thousands of summer soccer camps throughout the United States, with roughly 1200 English soccer instructors leading the various camps. Challenger Sports also provides clinics and instruction in fall and spring as well.
“We work for Challenger Sports and they recruit a lot of people from England,” Judd said. “You have first-years and returners like myself. I’m a returner; this is my second year. You get allocated to a region. Last year, I was in Texas. This year, it was the Southeast. They just have loads of camps all over—Atlanta, Mississippi, Alabama. We just get sent to all the different camps basically. That’s how it works.”
Rashid and Jenkins are both first-year instructors. Rashid seemed genuinely impressed with the friendliness of the people in Pell City.
“This is the third state I’ve been to already in three weeks,” Rashid said. “We started in Mississippi, then second week in Georgia and this week in Alabama. Like coach Billy said, the Southern hospitality has been tremendous. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Back home, Judd is a right back and has played soccer since he was 9 years old. Rashid is an attacking midfielder. Jenkins plays striker.
“It’s my first year,” Jenkins said. “It’s different because of the heat. I’m not used to working in extreme heat. As Billy said, today is not too bad and the week hasn’t been too bad.”
Jenkins said the best part of the camp is the opportunity to work with kids and see them progress and learn the game over the course of the week.
Myers noted that is the main objective: to help kids enjoy the game first, to learn the fundamentals and get an understanding of important elements of the game like good sportsmanship.
Judd, who was charged with coaching the older players in the camp, went through a kick-and-catch drill. Players learn to move in space. Once a player receives a kick from a teammate, they must remain stationary as they search to kick to a teammate moving in space.
“We have a curriculum that we use,” Judd explained. “They give us a pack that we use because of the different age groups. In the morning, we have the mini-soccer from 3 to 7 years old. That’s more fun and games, just learning the basics, just coordination and the rules of the game.”
After the morning group, an older group of kids practices from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.
“We’ve got different groups,” Judd said. “We’ve got 7 all the way up to 14. So, we split the groups up into their age groups and we try to put them into their skill groups as well, because some kids are more developed than others. For the younger ones, we work more on the technique. As we get older, we’re looking at the more tactical side of the game and more decision making and stuff like that.”
For more information about soccer programs in Pell City, contact Pell City Parks and Recreation at 205-338-9713.