There’s no doubt that the Northwest, and the Puget Sound area in particular, has become a hotbed of soccer. The Seattle Sounders have become a centerpiece of that culture, and their fingerprints are continuing to spread throughout the region.
One of the more popular outreach programs the club has offered has become the Sounders FC Youth Camps, and 55 local kids took part in one such week-long camp from July 15-19 at Cirque Park in University Place.
Running throughout the summer months, the program is tailored for kids ages 4 to 15, and camps are held in all different areas of the state, from Spokane to the Tri-Cities to Bellingham, among others.
“It’s an unusual camp when we come down here to Tacoma because we end up with more kids that are at a higher age group,” said camp director Ryan Ringdahl. “It actually makes it a really fun camp to deal with because you’ve got kids that are a little more mature and you can do more fun stuff with them over the course of the week.”
The program, which has been running for six years, is also aided by a roster of 130 assistant coaches, many of which are former or current college players or players on Sounders Academy teams.
“We’re really lucky with how many really quality young coaches we get out here,” Ringdahl said. “They’re really good with the kids.”
In addition, a highlight of the camps is an appearance by a Sounders player, who normally stresses life values such as dealing with losing and maintaining a healthy diet.
Players were taught a wide variety of skills and lessons throughout the first four days of camp, including sessions dedicated to passing, dribbling, shooting and one-versus-one situations on the pitch. Campers were frequently divided into groups based on their age, where they could then actively practice the skills in a smaller setting.
“We’ve got a really well-designed curriculum,” Ringdahl said. “For each age group we have a different set of games that deal with the topic at a level that the kids at that age can engage with.”
In addition, each day players received a different giveaway from the camp – including T-shirts and lunchboxes stuffed with accessories – courtesy of a growing number of sponsors.
Ringdahl noted that while the turnout in Tacoma was good, camps in Seattle can go upwards of 200 players.
“Part of that is the way the Sounders do things,” he said. “They knew they couldn’t support an MLS franchise without having a community that’s excited about soccer…you need stuff like this to keep people engaged.”
The five-day camp will return to Cirque Park later this summer, from Aug. 12-16. To sign up or for more info visit www.soundersfc.com/youth/camp-programs/camp-programs.aspx.