LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — As it continues to expand its reach, the St. Francis Summer Soccer Camp brought together the coaching minds behind three of the preeminent high school programs in the area when it convened last week.
Crescenta Valley High girls' soccer Coach Jorden Schulz, whose team won a Pacific League co-title last season, and Crescenta Valley boys' Coach Grant Clark, who piloted the Falcons to a CIF Southern Section Division IV title in March, joined forces with veteran St. Francis Coach Glen Appels for a comprehensive weeklong soccer clinic at St. Francis that ended on Friday.
Appels, who has run some form of the camp every summer for the past 24 years, while maintaining the Golden Knights program as a perennial Mission League contender and CIF Division I playoff mainstay, has been looking to take the camp in new directions since the CIF relaxed its regulations on enrollment three years ago.
"There's some kids that go here, but we also have a group of kids who are young players and we have the Crescenta Valley coaches helping us out this year, so it's a little bit more of a community thing," said Appels, whose camp was limited for many years to kids enrolled at St. Francis by Southern Section regulations aimed at restricting use of camps as recruitment tools. "It's been good. ...They've loosened up the rules a lot, which is nice. The guys who go out and recruit were going to do that anyway and this way the kids can come out and have fun and we can have young ladies at the camp."
The camp featured about 65 campers ages 9-18, with a dozen girls among the group, while nine coaches, including Appels and his full staff, the CV coaches and a goalkeeper coach, made sure everyone got plenty of attention and instruction.
"It's been great, we have this camp just to come out and have fun," said St. Francis senior-to-be Luke Hamanaka, who's been at the camp the past four years. "We have the younger kids out with our potential JV and varsity teams, so it's a good opportunity to see our incoming freshmen and it's a good opportunity for coaches to see how players have developed since the season ended."
Broken down into three age groups, with some consideration given to skill, the camp was also divided between three stations up and down the vertically oriented campus nestled into the side of a hill.
Atop the campus, condensed scrimmage sessions were held in the gymnasium. Across the quad, groups met in a classroom for film study and testing and at the bottom of the hill, two-hour skill clinics were held on Friedman Field.
"I think it's fun," Schulz said of rotating the campers between the three stations. "It's not too much of one thing. I've done a lot of camps where it's just all soccer and it's done all outdoors. Kids get more tired and they can get a little bit bored. It's a little bit of a mix-up, you get them out of the sun for basically half the camp, which is nice."
The tight confines of the gym allowed the campers to play some wild, fast-paced scrimmages where everyone could get in on the action.
"The nice thing in the gym is the ball doesn't go out of bounds very often," Appels said. "It's a lot of touches on the ball and because it's a small field, everybody's involved. They like the action, it's a lot of speed, lot of goals, so that's fun for the kids."
In addition to providing a break from the heat, the classroom sessions were an opportunity to study the cerebral aspect of the game from an analytical Xs and Os perspective.
The groups broke down tape of a recent match from the 2012 Olympics in London, taking notes and discussing tactical techniques. Quizzes were given on offensive and defensive principles, which Appels said gives incoming freshmen a frame of reference for entering the different coaches' respective programs.
"It's just a chance for them to do a little thinking," Appels said. "I think a lot of our kids like to play, but they don't have a lot of background or a lot of experience with the principles of the game."
Wednesday's field session covered the art of heading on the heels of Tuesday's focus on one-on-one drills. Thursday covered shooting, with tournament action closing the camp on Friday.
Different size fields with constantly rotating groups of players making up the teams put their skills and techniques learned throughout the week to practice in competition.
"It's really fun," Kristen Quinonez, 10, of Dunsmore Elementary said. "I like everything about it, but I like that we go against each other and that we learn a bunch of things and then use it to play.
"I like playing girls against boys. We usually tie, but sometimes they beat us."
Nicholas Tan, 10, of Mayfield Elementary said the different aspects of the camp mixed fun with some valuable lessons on soccer.
"I love how we have a lot of games so we can learn how to use all our body parts in soccer," Tan said. "It's a lot of fun because we get to do indoor and outdoor and there's different ways of playing for each one."