Fresh off of the euphoria of the United States men’s national soccer team’s run in the World Cup, other hopefuls youth had the opportunity to learn during two camps in Natchitoches.
The Northwestern State soccer team hosted its Demon Day Camp July 14-17 and its residential camp July 17-20 in an attempt to teach youth about soccer.
The day camp was for youth ages 5-12 and it allowed the campers to learn how to dribble, pass, ball control, heading and shooting.
“We try to work on the basic skills,” Lady Demons soccer head coach George Van Linder said. “We just try to give them an introduction of those and we hope it’s a foundation that they can go home and practice on their own hopefully so they can know what to do to get better.”
The attention then shifted to the residential camp, which goes more in-depth than the previous camp.
Youth ages 11-18 received instruction from not just the Lady Demon players and coaches, but from guest soccer coaches as well.
“The residential camp is more intense, in terms that a lot of those players are hoping to play in college and they want to come here,” Van Linder said. “It’s a chance for them to spend time with college players for 4-5 day and get the idea what college and athletics is all about. It also gives the coaches a chance to get to know them and show them the differences from playing in high school to college.”
For one of the camp directors, NSU senior midfielder Yanci Johnson, it all came full circle from her days as a youth.
“It felt awesome playing with the kids,” Johnson said. “They have so much energy. It’s just fun for them to learn all the fundamentals.”
Before Johnson made her name at Natchitoches Central, she attended the NSU Demon Soccer Day Camp in the hopes of playing soccer at a high level one day.
As she tore through the ranks of the Natchitoches Youth Soccer League en route to becoming the first Lady Chief to play collegiate soccer, a part of her had the chance to relive her youth while helping to volunteer for the camp.
“I was just inspired, I loved watching the girls,” Johnson said. “I hope I’m the same way for them. All of them remind me of me.”
Van Linder expounded on the importance of having his athletes—-like Johnson—-volunteer for the camp.
“I think that’s the neat thing for us,” Van Linder said. “It’s neat that now [Yanci’s] playing here and going on to her final season. It’s great and it doesn’t happen to often, but it would be great if we can have a couple of more like that.”
The Lady Demons will open their season on the road Aug. 20 against Texas Woman’s University, before hosting Louisiana College and ULM.