Juneau soccer camp grooms players for the international field

As the U.S. team heads to the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals this weekend, a Juneau soccer camp is teaching kids all about the global sport.

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Coach Paris runs the girls through drills. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)
Coach Paris runs the girls through drills. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

On the turf at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, a group of Scots and Brits are teaching 145 kids how soccer–or what they call “football”–is played across the pond. Miley Quigley is part of the 11- to 13-year-old group. She says her favorite thing about the camp is learning new skills.

“I barely knew any tricks before and now I know a lot of tricks because Spider Man taught us,” she says.

“Spider Man” is the nickname for Stephen Paris, a sports coach major from Glasgow, Scotland. He doesn’t play competitively due to an old foot injury, but that doesn’t stop him from teaching the sport. His signature move is called a “rainbow.”

With the kick of his heel, the ball arches over the back of his body.

Juneau Soccer Club hosts the coed camp which teaches kids about the global sport. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)
Juneau Soccer Club hosts the coed camp which teaches kids about the global sport. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

“Right over the head. I went right over the reporter’s head,” he says.

Challenger Sports sends foreign players, like Paris, to different parts of the country to teach regional techniques. Last year, a Brazilian group taught Samba dribbling.

“It’s like the fancy freestyle side of soccer. So like all these flicks you see. You run pass the player. It’s flair,” says Hamza Butt, otherwise known as “coach Hamburger.”

He can be pretty strict on the field, which he says comes from his background playing semi-professional soccer in England. Unlike Samba dribbling, the British style is more buttoned-up, strategic.

“You got to be much more technical,” he says. “Teams want an individual who has everything to his game: passing, dribbling, crossing, shooting.”

Typically, soccer teams are an international patchwork, but in the World Cup, athletes play for their home country. Coach Butt says the kids here at camp are watching.

“For example, Rapinoe, the U.S. winger. Women here in the camp, want to be like Rapinoe,” he says. “Whilst they’re dribbling the ball, they say, ‘It’s Rapinoe! Rapinoe!’  They’re are trying to imitate these players.”

But the young women say it can be tough to find equality on the field, especially when you’re teammates with pre-teen boys. They hurl what they think is the ultimate insult: “You play like a girl.”

“It’s kind of honestly really sexist when they say ‘like a girl,’ cause we’re like, ‘why?’” says camp participant Merry Neuman.

Because these soccer players know what it really means.

“Then you must be doing something really good if it’s like a girl  because we’re way better.”

The last time the U.S. men’s team reached the World Cup quarterfinals was in 2002.