This week, several young soccer players in Lacombe are taking some extra time to develop their skills as part of the seventh annual Upward Soccer Camp.
Upward is a Christian soccer camp focused on developing fundamental skills and tying a faith message to athleticism.
Tracy Everett is a volunteer coach who has been involved in Upward since it started in Lacombe.
He is also a member of the Lacombe Pentecostal Church, which organizes the camp each year.
Everett said he started coaching when his son started playing soccer.
When Upward got started up, Everett said he saw it as an opportunity to enhance the community’s existing soccer programs.
“It just makes an amazing change in the kids,” said Everett.
Being able to share his passion for soccer is something that Everett enjoys about coaching with the camp.
“It’s just an amazing feeling to see a sport that I love being expanded into children’s lives,” said Everett. “I just love being on the field with the kids and teaching them a sport that I love and seeing them grow in the sport.”
Some players in the camp don’t even play soccer or any sports throughout the year, said Everett.
However, they still show up every summer for a week of soccer.
Through Upward, Everett has seen some of these players, who don’t play or sometimes even like soccer outside of the camp, make friends and connections within the community that they wouldn’t otherwise.
At Upward, Everett coaches the older players, the ones in Grades 5 and 6.
He said at this level, players tend to make the decision about whether or not go get serious with their competition.
Outside the camp, Everett coaches those seriously competitive players as a coach with Lacombe Minor Soccer.
He said that the camp is great for developing serious, competitive players as well as having fun.
Everett said he believes strong fundamentals are also key to developing a strong, competitive player.
He said Upward is great because it focuses on honing those fundamental skills.
“If you don’t know how to dribble a ball, pass a ball properly or even kick a ball properly, it’s very difficult to become very competitive,” said Everett.
In addition to team coaches like Everett, the camp also utilizes ‘station’ coaches, who specialize in coaching drills at different stations that focus on each of the fundamental skills.
Everett said that, as players progress through the camp year after year, the drills for developing those skills build off each other.
There is a faith component through the Upward camp that is beneficial to athletes as well, said Everett.
He said it gives players who aren’t necessarily faith-orientated or members of a church, but still have beliefs relating to Christianity, a chance to explore those beliefs.
It also gives them a chance to connect with others who might have a deeper understanding of those beliefs, he said.
Upward camps are open to any players who have not yet entered Grade 7 right down to those who are pre-Kindergarten aged.
For more information about Upward camps, visit www.upward.org.