Soccer season is here! Er, soccer camp season that is.
This week, Lacombe Pentecostal Church is holding it’s sixth annual Upward Soccer Camp. Camp Director Cheryl Tracy said that Upward works to use sport to instill personal characteristics like confidence and integrity in players.
“Upward is about doing well at whatever you do.” She added it also emphasizes that competition should be healthy and sports should be fun.
“It’s not just about winning, it’s about doing the best at what you do,” said Tracy.
The camp works to improve player skills by working on skills through four ‘stations’. Tracy added developing footwork is a focus for the camp. She also said that players learn about soccer by actually playing the game during the season.
However, that instruction is usually focused on playing the game and how it works as a whole. Camps on the other hand can focus on building individual skills.
Coaches and other volunteers for the program are found everywhere, said Tracy.
Most of the coaches have been with the program for a number of years. Some got involved with the program through the church, others through the school, and some through the minor soccer program in Lacombe.
Tracy said that the effort the coaches put into the program is incredible.
“These coaches are phenomenal, they love on these children. They are just so positive and upbeat.”
While Upward is focused on teaching, there is more to sport than winning – that doesn’t mean coaches and players can’t take skill-building seriously. Tracy said the level of coaching is acceptable for the level of skills for each age group and as the children get older the coaching tends to get more intense.
As the soccer camp is a church-based camp, there is a spiritual element to the camp as well. However, Tracy said that element is not specific to the Pentecostal faith.
Instead, the camp simply focuses on what scripture reading throughout the week.
When Tracy came to Lacombe and became a pastor with the Lacombe Pentecostal Church, she started looking for a way she could work with the community outside of her capacity with the church as a pastor. Her senior pastor had received some information about sport camps run by church groups out of Texas and shared the information with Tracy.
That group, Upward, was doing training sessions in Calgary at the time. Knowing Tracy had expressed interest in doing some kind of community work, her senior pastor encouraged her to go.
At that time there were few community outreach programs in Lacombe, so Tracy was eager to bring something of that nature to the community. She said she decided on soccer because between soccer and hockey, the two camps offered by the Upward program, she knew more about the sport.
The first year, Lacombe’s Upward Soccer Camp attracted between 60 and 70 kids, Tracy said. The next year, that number nearly doubled to 120. This year, the camp is down in numbers from usual, with about 90 kids.
Organizing the camp is largely done by Tracy herself. It’s a process that takes some time. Tracy said she starts planning, ordering, and booking fields in January for the camp.
Lacombe’s Upward Soccer Camp also offers sponsorship for interested players that need it, said Tracy. As such, a number of small fundraisers are held throughout the year. About a third of the players in this year’s camp are fundraised and Tracy said that the camp has never turned anyone away because of cost issues.
“Anyone who asks to come can come. If anyone were to say, ‘I can’t afford it,’ that’s not true.”
The soccer camps are available to any players who have not yet entered Grade 7 down to Pre-Kindergarten aged players. For more information about Upward Camps, visit www.upward.org.