Pelham sees successful turnout for youth soccer clinic despite elements

Published 12:34 pm Friday, January 12, 2024

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

PELHAM – The postal service may deliver in rain, sleet and snow, but Pelham soccer players can be added to that group as well.

44 kids braved the cold and wet conditions to come to Pelham Parks and Recreation’s youth soccer clinic hosted by Pelham High School’s varsity boys soccer coaches and players at Pelham High School on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Despite the weather forcing a change in location from Pelham Park Middle School and potentially keeping kids away, there was actually a better turnout than Pelham’s previous soccer clinics.

“We had about 36 [kids] at our last one in November, so more kids showed up even though it was colder,” said Patrick McDonald, Pelham High School’s varsity boys soccer head coach. “They had a great attitude out there. They wanted to get better.”

At the camp, kids learned all the basics of soccer during the hour-and-a-half-long event, including dribbling, shooting and individual ball skills. Those interested could also learn how to be a goalkeeper from Pelham’s starting keeper Raul Jacobo Hernandez.

The kids also got to warm up by touring the Panthers’ new soccer facilities in the high school fieldhouse. During that time, they also got to ask questions and learn what it is like to be a player on the varsity team.

They finally closed the night with a scrimmage on the same field that Pelham plays its home games on, putting their skills to use under the bright lights of Ned Bearden Stadium.

McDonald said that nights like this are essential to growing soccer in the city and helping players learn how to play the game the same way as the Panthers.

“Having that opportunity to say, ‘hey, this is what the high school kids do and I want to do this growing up,’ we’re trying to encourage these Pelham youth so when they get of age, they’ll have the opportunities to play just like our varsity players now, and it starts at their age learning the basics of just beginning soccer,” McDonald said. “If they’re playing 7v7 or 9v9 and working on their skills at the park, that will easily translate into later when they advance to middle school and high school.”

Pelham’s varsity soccer players helped out with the event, teaching skills to the kids and building relationships with them.

Hanging out with youth soccer players isn’t new to the team, as the players regularly volunteer as referees for youth games for Pelham Parks and Recreation and host youth nights where kids can walk out with the players and spend time with them.

As a result, it’s easy for McDonald and the coaching staff to get them to participate.

“It’s not a hard sell for our student-athletes to help out,” McDonald said. “We have an extremely coachable team this year. We have about 12 seniors, and the group really understands where they were at that age.”

McDond was proud of how his players passed along their wisdom and interacted with the attendees.

“It’s an hour-and-a-half, but, at the same time, to treat them with patience and to keep it a positive attitude, I was very happy with our student-athletes of what they accomplished last night,” McDonald said.

He hopes that events like these are just the start of a long relationship between parents, players and Pelham soccer as the team gives back and fosters a positive learning environment for kids to learn the game.

“To the parents, they see a group that wants their kid actively getting better at the sport and it’s cultivating as much as we can that development in our community,” McDonald said.