ROCKINGHAM — Things were “kind of hectic” on the first day, but hearing that campers enjoyed themselves and picked up on skills that can help improve their games made all of the behind-the-scenes work worth it.
Newly named head coach Chris Larsen and recently retired Bennie Howard were busy making sure everything was in place before, during and after the Richmond soccer program kicked off its 18th annual development camp Monday morning.
From keeping the coolers filled with water in order to keep everyone hydrated, to writing receipts for the parents and ordering the T-shirts that’ll be passed out on the last day, and much more, there was a lot to do in the three-hour span.
The four-day camp — which acts as a fundraiser for the Raider program — hosts kids from ages five to 18 and runs from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. every day. There are 111 participants this go-round, which beats last year’s number by one.
“The first day is always kind of hectic … but just to see the kids having fun is what matters. This is all about learning and improving skills so they can continue to play the game of soccer,” said Howard, who’s co-directing the camp with Larsen for the first time in camp history. “I briefly talked to numerous (campers) today and asked them if they were having fun and learning anything, and they all said ‘Yes.’”
While Howard and Larsen tended to the off-the-field activities, more than a handful of fellow coaches and former players put the campers through different dribbling, passing, shooting and defensive drills on the field.
Working with the older groups on the soccer field were Tad Hamilton (Richmond JV boys), Colin McDavid (Hoke County), Vince Paparella (Richmond assistant), Brandon Standridge (St. Andrew’s University women’s) and Danny Villa (High Point Central girls). Brett Bowers and Altman Griffin, both former Raiders, stepped in and worked with the smaller group on the football field. Hamilton and Standridge also played soccer for Howard during their high school careers.
The second half of the day was dedicated to small-sided scrimmages, where campers were mixed up — except for the younger group — and got a chance to work on what they learned during the first hour and a half in a game-like scenario.
“It’s good to see the older ones take some initiative in being a role model and showing (the younger ones) the right thing to do, because they can step in and help coach, too,” Larsen said. “It’s just good to mix them up. (The older kids) were here when they were young and they know who they looked up to, so it’s good for the roles to be reversed.”
A large number of those who took on that leadership role are members of Richmond’s boys and girls soccer teams, as returners are usual participants at the annual camp. Their attendance, Larsen says, is one of the biggest things that can help the teams bring along new players and develop their chemistry heading into the fall and spring seasons.
“The more they’re together, playing and having a good time, the more they’re going to buy in and work as a unit,” Larsen added.
The next three days should run a bit more smoothly, but Larsen and Howard are expecting the same kind of energy and work ethic — from themselves, the campers and the rest of the staff — that was on display on Monday.
“The first day is in the books. The coaches know what they’re doing and they’re doing a great job so far,” Howard said. “Tomorrow should be a little cooler and a little less stressful, but we’re off to a great start.”
The Richmond soccer program hosted the first day of its 18th annual development camp on Monday, welcoming a total of 111 campers on the school’s soccer and football fields. Former coach Bennie Howard, whose retirement was made official earlier this month, is co-directing the camp with newly named head coach Chris Larsen.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.