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Ryan McCracken photo
Ryan McCracken photo
(From left) Jon Warkentin, Nathan Barlad and Logan Hellquist balance soccer balls between their shoulder blades during a race at the British Soccer Camp last week.
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British Soccer Camp thrills participants

Jul 08, 2014 11:30 am | By Ryan McCracken | St. Paul Journal

Seventy-two young soccer players hit the pitch in St. Paul last week for the Challenger British Soccer Camp, welcoming five coaches from across the Atlantic to share their knowledge of the game.

Mike Whitehead of Leicestershire, Ben Richards of Wales, Jack Saras of Swindon, Jonny Bradley of Burnley and Sam Arksey of Milton Keynes led a variety of camps from June 30 to July 4, and organizer Michelle Duffy said she was thrilled with the knowledge they brought to the field and the way they interacted with the kids.

“We have really experienced coaches this year. For some of them it’s their third of fourth time coming to Canada,” said Duffy, who hosted some of the coaches during their stay in St. Paul. “They’re a lot of fun, and willing to try new things. We took them all tubing with the Nunweilers and we gave them some experiences that they’ve never had.”

Whitehead said this is his third summer in Canada with Challenger Sports, and added he loves teaching soccer in this country.

“I love it, that’s why I keep coming back. I’ve worked in Alberta quite a lot, and it’s always amazing,” he said, adding a thank you to all the campers, parents, and staff.

Whitehead said it was a pleasure to see the abilities of St. Paul’s young players rise over the course of the weeklong program.

“It’s amazing, on a Monday we start the kids off with basic skills, some of them are more advanced, but the fact they’re touching the ball from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – and we make sure there’s massive participation – the difference from Monday to Friday is huge. Their ability goes up so much, it’s great,” he said, adding the St. Paul campers were a delight to coach. “They’re so enthusiastic. Their energy makes the camp what it is.”

Camper Logan Hellquist, who returned this summer for his third British Soccer Camp, said it was a lot of fun interacting with such knowledgeable and skilled coaches.

“It was really fun. It’s a unique experience I’d say, and it’s different every year,” said camper Logan Hellquist, who was coached primarily by Whitehead and Arksey. “They were very skilled soccer players.”

A handful of adult soccer players got to experience just how skilled the British Soccer Camp staff are last Wednesday evening, when the coaches invited members of the St. Paul community to join them for a friendly “Britain vs Canada” match. While Britain won the match 4-1, Whitehead and Richards said they were very impressed with the skill they saw from the local talent.

“The first 15 to 20 minutes they were probably better than us,” said Richards. “We really enjoyed it.”

“They played fantastic,” Whitehead said of the local soccer players in Wednesday’s friendly. “We love it when locals want to come out and play, it keeps us fit and it keeps us training.”

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