ENDALE - Though the range of knowledge and skill was diverse among participants at the Summerfuel soccer camp at the Glendale Sports Complex, one thing guaranteed to coaches and players was plenty of interaction.
Summerfuel, English-based Arsenal Football Club’s United States affiliate, held the second of its California camps at the Glendale Sports Complex from June 20-24 with about 26 participants taking advantage of a unique style of training and coaching.
“What we want is for the kids to have fun and to develop, but also to learn the Arsenal way,” said Marc Anthony, the camp director. “It’s more than just skills, but also about attitude. With the numbers we have, we’re able to really get involved with all the kids.”
On Wednesday morning, Anthony broke the camp into two groups for kids aged 7-10 and 11-15.
Anthony worked hands on with the younger squad and spent a fair amount of time on attacking drills, first the one-on-one variety and then later two-on-one.
The younger group was split into two teams and Anthony asked that each unit name itself based upon a nation competing in the ongoing UEFA European Championship.
While one team eagerly selected favorite Germany, the reigning World Cup champion, the other side incorrectly, albeit cutely, chose Chile, which is participating in the Copa America Centenario Championship taking place in the United States.
“Hey, they have Copa on their minds,” said Anthony, a native of Trinidad and Tobago. “Whether you know a lot or a little about this game, this is the right camp.”
One camp-goer who excelled was 9-year-old Fiona Facineli.
The Toluca Lake resident netted two goals in the one-on-one drill in which a player had to beat a defender and then score into a narrow four-foot net.
Facineli also took her turn as a defender, with the rule being that the defensive player could only move laterally. Even with those limitations, Facineli denied one attacker.
“It’s fun, a lot of fun,” Facineli said. “It’s kind of easy, too. I liked the tackling drills the most and the two-on-one. It’s fun to score and tackle.”
Though Facineli had never attended an Arsenal match, the youngster gave a wry smile when asked if she had ever heard of the 13-time English League champion.
“Of course, everyone has heard of Arsenal,” she said.
Other than on-the-field preparation, Anthony also quizzed the kids about Arsenal players and the camp-goers listed two primary players as their favorites: Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez.
Anthony also emphasized the importance of acceleration to the youngsters, while explaining that the secret to Lionel Messi’s success was his instant ability to go from walking to sprinting on the attack.
On the other side of the field, third-year youth coach James Colinese led an older group, which had an obvious advantage.
“At this level, all the kids have a good understanding of football,” Colinese said. “The skill level is different, but they are all willing to listen, learn and pay attention.”
Colinese observed each player throughout various drills and offered instruction and pointers, while demonstrating proper technique.
That type of instruction led Las Vegas resident Yuuto Marchal and his family to make the long trek to Glendale.
Without surprise, the 12-year-old said his favorite team was Arsenal and that he hoped to play professionally one day in a European league.
“I love Arsenal,” said Marchal, who was in attendance at the team’s 3-1 defeat at FC Barcelona in the second leg of the Champions League match on March 16. “It’s been really fun to be out here and be a part of this.”
One of the rare luxuries of Arsenal’s camp not often seen was the on-site service of a trainer, in this case, Vanguard University’s Jeff Weinstein.
“I looked forward to working with Arsenal and with the kids who came out,” Weinstein said. “I’m a SoCal guy, so it’s fun to come out and be a part of this.”
Though no Arsenal players or coaches were involved with the camp, Summerfuel insists that the training and instruction offered at the California camps mirrors the tactics and drills of Arsenal’s professional club.
Though Summerfuel has been offering camps in the United States for the last few years in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and Washington DC, Glendale is part of a first-ever, three-city California swing.
The first west coast camp took place in Palo Alto from June 13-17, while the last camp is set for San Diego from June 27-July 1.
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