GLENDALE — Like many young boys and girls, 11-year-old Kiana Jones has a wide variety of activities in which to choose from during the summer.
Unfortunately, things like iPhones, iPods, personal gaming devices, computers, television and DVDs keep many of Jones' peers indoors during their break from school.
"I would rather be outside playing than be inside being like a hermit," Jones said. "My sister is the one who just stays in the house all the time and I have a bunch of friends who are like that. But I'm happy to be outside playing … that's something that I really like."
Some 170 like-minded athletes ages 6-16 took to the soccer field at the Glendale Sports Complex this week to take part in a series of FC Barcelona Soccer Camps. The camps, which began Monday and concluded Friday, have the distinction of including expert coaching from some of the coaches from FC Barcelona, the famous Spanish soccer club that is one of the most popular and successful in the world.
Participants from as far as Mexico, Canada and cities throughout California came to take part in one of seven camps held throughout the nation during the summer. The young athletes were put through a training regimen that included many of the same drills that are conducted for the players of the elite professional club.
"That is what really makes us unique," camp director Frank Bagheri said. "If you want to get that real FC Barcelona training, the only way to do that is in one of our camps. Either that or try and go to a camp in Barcelona and you can't get into one of those.
"There are a lot of camps that might have the name FC Barcelona, but ours is the only one that is officially affiliated with the club. We have coaches from the club who actually coach the youth teams from September to June with Barcelona and many coach in La Masia, which is a heartbeat away from the first team."
The athletes took part in three sessions: a morning session that was open to all players and two afternoon sessions that catered to the more elite players. In the elite camp, each FC Barcelona coach takes only 15 players to work with.
"They get divided by age, because that's all we really know about them," Bagheri said. "And the coaching they receive is really top-notch. Along with the Barcelona coaches, we have some of the other coaches who have been with us through the series of the three camps that we've had in the past."
In the sessions, athletes concentrated on drills such as passing, dribbling, technique and ball possession. Bagheri said the drills implemented at the local camp are the same that a player in the FC Barcelona system will run from the time he enters the program at age 6 and will still continue to run if he is fortunate to be picked for the professional squad.
Along with the drills and techniques, athletes must adhere to a code of conduct that includes having their shirt tucked in prior to every session, bringing their own ball and paying strict attention to coaches when they are talking.
"You will see we have no whistles," Bagheri said. "The kids learn and know what they have to do. It's just so great to see a group of kids sitting and listening to every word a coach says. It's not just about skills and drills, they also learn to be respectful and they have to act the part as well."
Ian Garcia, 14, from Redlands, said it was the FC Barcelona name that drew him to the camp and he was happy with the things he will be able to take away from the session.
"It is a great camp, mostly because you get to train under the philosophy of FC Barcelona," he said. "They really show us the work we have to do and what we have to do in certain situations. I learned how to control the ball more and look for teammates in certain situations. And it's great because Barcelona is the best team in the world."
Nima Bahra, 13, of Los Angeles, who along with Garcia, participated in the elite camp, said he was definitely looking to elevate his game by attending the camp.
"The really fun thing is to be able to learn the Barcelona system," he said. "I was really happy to be in the elite camp, because I was able to play with more quality players and I think I'm able to learn more that way. It's an honor to be chosen for the elite camp with it being Barcelona and all."