Helena celebrates 10 years of its youth soccer camp with large turnout

Published 4:02 pm Thursday, June 6, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HELENA – Helena High School marked a decade of pouring into the local youth soccer community with another successful year of the Helena Husky Soccer Camp from June 3-7.

“We’ve had a great week,” Helena head girls soccer coach Clif Naron said. “We’ve got 147 campers out here this year and the weather has cooperated. We’re out here on the turf and everybody’s getting a little skill and getting a little fun.

The camp provided a mix of drills to learn soccer skills and fun games to get the campers excited about playing soccer.

Leaning into Helena’s identity as the Huskies, the campers were divided into “packs” by grad level. Their age pack determined what skills they learned throughout the week, with younger kids learning more basic skills and older kids learning the advanced skills that will prepare them for higher levels of competitive soccer.

“At the earliest grade level, we’re doing basic cone drills and touch stuff and at the highest, we’re doing more soccer skill, IQ, shooting drills, one-on-one close skill drills,” Naron said. “So, it just depends on the age that they’re at or how detailed they’re going.”

However, Naron doesn’t want the skill development to take away from the fun of the camp. The campers play multiple games throughout the day, get daily popsicles during the much-anticipated treat time and end their week with a visit from Kona Ice.

“A lot of our camp is, ‘Come have fun,” Naron said. “We’re going to drill down and get you some skills, but we want you to get out here and get engaged and really get interested and want to play soccer so that we can grow you to want to be here when you become a middle schooler or high schooler.

The varsity boys and girls soccer players took charge as pack leaders to guide the kids through the drills. Over the past 10 years, Naron has seen players go from campers themselves to leading other campers as pack leaders because of their great experiences at the camp.

“It’s really cool because this is our 10th anniversary of camp and a lot of our players were once our campers and they all want to be in charge,” Naron said. “They want to be the leader because they remember being a little kid and being here at camp and it’s so cool to see that connection made.”

Naron believes that starting the kids out young at the camp and making the game fun for them helps lead to a long love of soccer. That connection with the community that Helena has built shows in how many kids come back year after year.

“It really is making that connection with the community, and I think that’s where we’ve seen success, probably more so on the girls side, but certainly within our program of getting these kids when they’re young, making sure they’re interested in soccer, finding fun, enjoyment of soccer, and just getting them back,” Naron said. “Most of our campers come back two or three years and we see them over and over and over again until they age out. It’s pretty cool.

Eventually once those campers age out, they start playing with clubs and then with Helena Middle School and Helena High School, representing their city while playing the game that they love.

While soccer’s meteoric rise in Helena and across Shelby County can be attributed to many factors, Naron knows the camp has done its job when he looks across the dressing room and sees many former campers across both the girls and boys teams.

“When we started on the girls side, we had 23 kids try out for 22 spots and only a handful of them had ever played soccer before I got out and got kind of involved in the community, started going to the Saturday city league games,” Naron said. “Even on the boys side, there just wasn’t that much soccer here then. We don’t owe all of our success to summer camp, but I feel like this offering has certainly helped us capture interest in soccer in the Helena community and helped grow our program beyond a doubt. When we can sit down with, at this point, 45, 50, 60% of our players on the boys and girls side came to our camp, that’s pretty huge.