A day after the USA women’s victory over France, kids at a Delaware soccer camp were practicing with an increased desire to be soccer stars of the future.
There has been a lot of reporting on how that win will increase the popularity of soccer. The 6-14 year olds who attend the Kirkwood Soccer camp in New Castle have grown up in an age where soccer, especially women’s soccer has been a big deal.
The group came together for another day of drills as part of a weekly summer camp. Coach Bruce Pill of Hockessin blew his whistle and the group broke into chants of “USA, USA, USA”. Henry Fusco, technical director at Kirkwood, says it’s one of the ways they get kids to focus on the training they will undertake in the days ahead.
Nine year old Maria Thomas of Middletown says she tries hard to stay focused. She has a goal to play on a World Cup team someday. “If you believe in yourself then good things will happen,” she said. She described watching the game with France as a good experience to watch the best.
She said as she watched the game kids were screaming with excitement. She added that she didn’t look at them as the women’s team. “I look at them as model soccer players,” the Brick Mill Elementary student added.
11 year old Teresa Reid of Cecil County, Md. knows she was born the year the USA women’s team first won the world cup in 1999. She was among the 60 attending camp this week who took a practice break to watch the end of the match with France. “Maybe I can be the one who changes the game sometime,” she said. She plays middle-center position and thought all the players were great.
Darian Byrne of Middletown, also 11, was impressed with the ball movement. He says as he watched the game he saw just another team representing the U.S. He adds though, “The women’s team is better than the men’s team.” He attends Redding Middle school. His fall soccer team is all boys, but he knows girls are just as good. He pointed out that Teresa is one of the better players. “You have to mark players like her. Make sure you stay on her to defend her,” he said.
Fusco has been with Kirkwood since it opened in 1974. He says it’s been amazing how this current USAteam has provided the same kind of buzz that the ’99 team did. “Everyone knows the name of Brandi Chaistain and Mia Hamm and now they know Abby Wambaugh and Megan Rapone,” he said. He said the kids feel good about what is going on. For Stephanie Kulenguskey, age 8 and her 6 year old brother Jimmy their love for soccer was at an all time high. Jimmy came to camp dressed in his Philadelphia Union T-shirt, but his sister was dressed in her number 9 Mia Hamm jersey. A red USA painted on her face. Her hair colored like an American flag. “Her family is very passionate about soccer,” said Coach Pill.
Fusco said Kirkwood put together a mini-world cup soccer tourney for this week. It’s divided up in different age groups. For the record Reid and Byrne play on teams that are at the top of their divisions. Thomas plays on a team named “Team USA”. “We’re in second place, but we think we can win it,” she added.
While there is a heightened interest in Sunday’s final with Japan not all these kids will watch it live. The 3 soccer players we spoke to said they’ll be out practicing Sunday, but they’ll make sure they record it.