PASADENA — Kevin Mejia grew up learning the game of soccer at Launch Sports camps and clinics. Now, the 21-year-old Pasadena resident plays for Boston College.
Mejia hasn't forgotten where he developed as a player. He's doing what he can to pay back Launch Sports, Inc. — a soccer training, rehabilitation and skill development organization based in Monrovia — by helping run its summer camps, one of which ran Monday to Friday at the Rose Bowl.
"I'm just happy to lend a hand," said Mejia, a junior striker for the Eagles and former student at Marshall Fundamental. "I have done it before and the first time I did it I was surprised by the talent. … It's nice to see the kids actually want to play the game of soccer."
Launch Sports, co-founded by La Cañada High boys' soccer Coach Barry Ritson, has hosted two camp sessions already this summer. The first, an advanced, beginners and goalkeepers camp, ran July 18-22 at La Cañada High and the second was another beginners camp this past week.
"It's a great opportunity [for the kids]," said Mejia, who is one of seven college soccer players helping run Launch camps this summer. "You get more out of the coaching because they pay more attention to you and there's not as many people."
Matt Bowden, a camp director with Launch Sports, said there were about 120 kids, ages 4 to 14, of different skill levels enrolled in the week-long camp that concluded Friday. He expects there to be about 300 kids at Launch's final camp of the summer, which takes place Aug. 22-26 at the Rose Bowl.
Each day at a Launch Sports camp is focused on a specific skill set, including dribbling, passing and receiving, shooting and more. Bowden realizes campers come to Launch Sports with different skill levels and motivations, so he tries to make the week as fun as possible for them.
Fenton Wain, a 10 year old from England, signed up for the camp to keep busy during the day while he's visiting his grandparents who live near Pasadena.
"I came because I like soccer and I don't really have much to do," said Wain, adding that he made some new friends and "improved all his skills" at the camp.
Quinton Espinosa, a 13-year old Pasadena resident, enrolled in the camp to develop his skills as a soccer player and hopefully have a leg up on his competition when he tries out for his high school team next year. The camp was successful in doing that, Espinosa said.
"It definitely will help me a lot more, versus if I didn't come here, because I didn't really know the technique," Espinosa said. "I didn't know what I was going to come out and what I was going to have to do [in high school tryouts]. Now I have a little bit more of a visual for high school."
At the end of the day, Bowden wants each camper to walk away with one specific thing.
"It's always really simple, just the love for the game really," he said. "If every kid can come, have fun, be safe and just progress a little bit with their skills we'd like to think we've probably done our job."
Two more Launch Sports camps are scheduled for this summer. The first begins Monday and runs through Friday at the Rose Bowl from 9 a.m. to noon. It's for all skill levels, kids 4 to 14, and costs $179. Those who are interested can register online at http://www.launchsports.com or at the Rose Bowl at 9 a.m. Monday.