Soccer camp goes international

It was quite an international affair at the Woodbury Fields on Thursday. Representatives from Wales, Mexico, England, Portugal and France were playing fðtbol against each other -- at least that's where the markers on the arms and legs of the players said they were from.

"I'm playing for Wales, so I wrote it on my leg," said Michelle Hammond. "Some of my teammates drew whales on their shirts."

Hammond was one of 37 Yampa Valley youths to attend the Challenger British Soccer Camp hosted by the Craig Youth Soccer Association from Monday to today.

"The coaches suggested that we represent the country we play for any way we could," camper Cole DuBois said.

To represent their assigned countries, players taped pictures of flags to their shirts, wore jerseys with the country's colors and/or used markers to write the names of their nations on their bodies.

"They had a lot of fun with it," said Tristan Lewis, a 23-year-old coach from South Wales. "Our goal was to make things fun, and the kids made it happen."

Lewis and Jon Blackford, a 20-year-old coach from North Wales, had their first experiences running a Challenger Camp this week. They arrived from the United Kingdom early last week, flew into Denver Sunday and drove to Craig on Sunday night.

"We got here a little later than planned, so we were a little rushed to get things together," Lewis said. "But it worked out well."

The camp was separated into ages 5 through 8 in the morning and 9 through 15 in the afternoon. Thursday was World Cup day for the older group.

"Today was the most fun because all we did was scrimmage," Hammond said. "But the other days we played some fun games and drills."

DuBois was the leading scorer for France, the World Cup champions.

"France rules," he said, while holding a printout with all of France's national players on it. "Where's our World Cup?"

While campers and coaches speak English, there were a couple of terms that each group had to learn from each other.

"They say 'boots' for our 'shoes,'" Hammond said.

"They also say 'pitch' for 'field,'" DuBois added.

The coaches had their own interpretations to deal with.

"They don't know what we mean by the 'boot' of the car," Blackford said. "They say 'trunk.'"

"We had never heard the term 'scrimmage,'" Lewis said. "We always call it a 'game' or a 'match.'"

One word everybody understood the meaning of was "fun."

"We played a game called crabs and fish," Hammond said. "It's where the crabs start in the middle and try to steal your ball."

During the camp, the coaches said they have been impressed with the respect they received.

"We got a lot of thank-yous and pleases," Lewis said. "Back home, if you try to help a kid, sometimes they'll just curse at you," Blackford added.

The coaches are hired to come to the United States by Challenger Sports, a company based out of Kansas City, Kan. Lewis and Blackford had expected to be coaching in the Wheat State.

"It was nice to get to come to Colorado," Lewis said. "It reminds me of home."

Families host the coaches during the week. Hammond's family hosted last year, and the coaches are staying at the DuBois residence this year.

"They don't like root beer because it smells like a medicine they use on their muscles," DuBois said. "We've watched a lot of movies and just hung out."

Next up for the coaches is a stop in Brighton. The coaches have a better idea of what to expect after their first camp.

"The girls are a lot better here in the States because there really isn't much of a program for them at home," Blackford said.

"Overall, everybody is really well-coached," Lewis said. "The facilities are also very good, especially for a town this size."

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 ext. 211 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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