News: Children sharpen soccer skills during clinic
Story by Lance Cpl. Jose Lujano
CAMP FOSTER, Japan - Meeting a childhood hero can have a lasting effect on a child’s life. It can inspire them to work harder and make far-off dreams seem more attainable.
More than 20 players and staff of the Seattle Reign Football Club provided such an opportunity as they conducted a one-hour soccer clinic for children in Marine Corps Community Services Okinawa’s minor and major age divisions March 21 at Camp Foster.
The professional players, who compete in the National Women’s Soccer League in the U.S., separated the youth players into their respective divisions, and each group rotated through three drills, focusing mostly on ball-control fundamentals.
“Drills are the main focus of any practice session because without them, the training is incomplete and its ineffectiveness is truly shown in a game,” said Keelin Winters, a midfielder with Seattle Reign FC. “The reason why we chose these drills is because it is important to instill the basic ball control, movements, stamina and endurance that are needed in a game of soccer in the minds of these growing players.”
Coaches also appreciated the opportunity to see the children develop their skills in an atmosphere where so many share the same passion for the sport.
“The (professional) team participating in the event breaks up the monotony of normal practices and gives the children the chance to see what the pros do and that they can do it too if they keep trying,” said Capt. Jeremy B. Durrette, a youth soccer coach for the Kinser Assassins and supply officer with Marine Air Support Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “I think the outcome of the event is more dedication from the kids to soccer, and the league will become more competitive.”
Following drills, the professional athletes autographed jerseys, cleats and soccer balls and posed for photographs.
“Being able to come out means the world to the children, and if we can change one kid’s mind to continue to play soccer, we have done our job,” said Winters. “We are lucky and blessed to be here, and our appreciation goes out to all military members, families and friends for providing us your services.”
Winters, who grew up in a military family, welcomed her return to the military environment and the memories it brought back.
“It is nice giving back and being in this environment again,” said Winters. “It reminds me of being home, which is far away from me because I’m from D.C. and now live in Seattle.”
While being stationed far from home makes it more difficult for fans to keep up with their favorite players on television, practicing with them in person was a rare, welcomed opportunity.
“Being in Okinawa, our players do not have the advantages of watching professional games and attending summer clinics or camps like they do stateside,” said Natalie Steele, the youth sports coordinator for Semper Fit on Okinawa. “I’m sure everyone can enjoy this chance to meet with the teams and take a little bit of their knowledge and advice to use it towards future games and practices.”
The professional players hoped to teach the children that if they want something and are willing to put in the hard work, they can achieve it, according to Winters.
As the clinic ended, the children appreciated the opportunity to further their skills in soccer and interact with professional soccer players.
“My dream came true, as I met my favorite soccer player, Keelin Winters because she is a midfielder like me,” said Jena V. Durrette, an 11-year-old soccer player with the Kinser Assassins. “It was a really big privilege to have them here because I felt like I was home.”
Meeting the players inspired Jena and the other children to continue pursuing their dreams.
“They made me want to keep playing soccer,” said Jena. “I know if I practice hard enough, I can make it to not just a professional team, but the national team as well.”