Let’s face it, grown-ups can take the fun out of childhood sports. Adults coaching youth sports, barking out orders, trying to run everything right down to how much each kid drinks.
Grown-ups generally get in the way of kids trying to be kids.
This week on Field 5 at Rock Hill’s Manchester Meadows soccer complex, though, it was different.
Twenty-five kids, ages 5 to 9, from the York County Boys and Girls Clubs ran around the field and kicked soccer balls – the sun beating down not nearly as bright as the smiles on their faces. The few adults there stayed in the background, drove the bus, carried some water, that kind of stuff only.
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This “Goal Chasers” camp was created by kids. The money to pay for it was raised by kids. Older kids taught younger kids.
And it was great.
The three-day camp came about when four friends who all play soccer – Hunter Dest, 14, Isaiah Reid, 14, and twins Jennings and Georgia Modla, 16 – wanted to find a way to give back some of what they have learned in soccer.
“It’s a way to share what I have had a chance to do with some kids who maybe didn’t have that same chance,” Hunter said.
Isaiah, Jennings and Georgia also talked about wanting to give something, a little of what they have had in their short lives, to other people.
Simple idea, mammoth project – but they got it done.
The four brought the idea to their parents months ago, obtained permission from Rock Hill to use the field, raised all the money to pay for soccer balls, T-shirts and other great stuff, and found willing campers at the Boys and Girls Clubs. They recruited other friends to help as counselors.
An idea of doing something for somebody else became three days of soccer drills and games and far more – fun and friendship.
When the campers arrived each day by bus, they were greeted by the teen counselors like heroes back from exile. They were hugged and held and given name tags. Their new friends made sure they were feeling good. The kids lined up for drills. They kicked and they ran.
The teens were right there with them, giving high-fives and encouragement.
Seven-year-old Blair Hollington talked Friday about how much he learned about soccer and the kicks he could do, and nobody ever smiled brighter – except maybe the teens who had helped him.
“The coolest,” said Blair.
Little girls, braids flying, rushed around kicking soccer balls with no adults yelling about technique and hustle and other stuff that makes a kid want to run away. Just these teens telling each kid how great they were, over and over.
On Friday’s last day of camp, the big kids didn’t want it to end. Neither did the little kids, who hung onto the big kids as tightly as they could.
“This is my best friend,” said 6-year-old Madison Cloud as she held onto Helen Scholten, 14. Helen did not argue.
Forty-eight hours earlier, they had yet to meet. By Friday, they were inseparable.
Similar hugs were being hugged all over the field, little kids finding in big kids something far larger than soccer.
When the teens played hip-hop music and danced, the little kids joined right in, and before long everybody was dancing. Just pure, shared joy.
Of course, this being camp, there were awards to be awarded – best hair-braider, best socks, most improved, best smile, most fun, best teammate.
Awards only kids could come up with.
And guess how many kids got awards at this camp for kids, run by kids.
Every single one of them.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065 firstname.lastname@example.org
Goal Chasers soccer camp
Counselors: Hunter Dest, Isaiah Reid, Georgia Modla, Jennings Modla, Grant Willis, Teller Crippen, Helen Scholten, Katie Philips, Kaycelyn Laymon, Gage Ellis
Campers: Zahari Calhoun, Colby Fowlkes, Delonte Holland, Lydell Jennings, Braylona Moore, Elias Hewett, Jaylin Davis, Devonte Evans, Z’Niya Taylor, Alana Taylor, Madison Cloud, Tia Norris, Shiann Norris, Blair Hollington, T’Yanna Bell, Darnell Lee, Dakota Hardin, Desiree Crawford, Keith Moore, Te’Ari Thompson, Tionna Thompson, Trevon Deweese, Euniq Boyd, Derrek Willloughby, Andre Maldonado, Christopher Demery