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West Branch Soccer Club holds annual camp

LOCK HAVEN — The West Branch Soccer Club is holding their 41st annual summer camp this week across the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. This year, there are 157 kids participating at the camp, with ages ranging from 5-13 and K-8th grades. All proceeds from the camp will contribute to the soccer club to support youth soccer throughout Clinton County.

The camp, which is the longest running soccer camp in Clinton County, is about kids having fun and learning how to play soccer with the correct fundamentals. Kids get the opportunity to learn from camp staff members, like coaches and current Lock Haven University players, about the details and intricacies of the game.

The director of the camp, Abe Stauffer, is a retired high school coach at Lock Haven High School and Central Mountain High School soccer programs, respectively. Since Stauffer began directing the camp in February of 1984, his goal this year is the same as it has always been, which is to serve the soccer club and see the growth of the kids involved.

“I love the game, and it’s for a good cause,” Stauffer said. “All the money we make goes back into the West Branch Soccer Club and I enjoy helping with that. It’s also good to see the little kids come out and play and the fact that it’s a good way to develop kids and make them better players.”

Some of the ways that Stauffer and his staff are getting the kids to have fun is by being interactive with them and keeping them engaged with fun activities throughout camp, such as one versus one scrimmaging. Even through the fun, the kids still find ways to learn new skills and drills to practice.

To further help the development of kids at the camp, Stauffer invited coach Barry Gorman to demonstrate drills to kids. Gorman, former Penn State soccer coach and current member of the United Soccer Coaches Association, used some younger camp staff to help demonstrate drills for the younger kids.

“It’s all about giving back,” Gorman said. “When you work with kids, you’re really paying it forward so that not only will they enjoy the game and play it as long as they can, but we’re hoping to educate fans with a future and perhaps a diamond in the rough is going to come out.”

Gorman then added: “So hopefully when they have kids, the knowledge of players, fans and opponents increases and that’s through camps like this.”

With most campers in middle school this year, most of the kids will be trying out for their junior high school team at Central Mountain. With the improvement and growth of the kids being the emphasis on the camp, Stauffer and his staff look forward to watching the kids come back each year and have fun. He understands that as they have fun, improvement will come, and that’s what motivates him to put together a great camp every year.

“The bottom line is to make it fun,” Stauffer added. “Soccer is a fun game; you want to keep it fun and that’s why we do things like wacky Wednesday. We just want to inject some life into them.”

Getting the kids to have fun is all part of putting on a great camp. But helping the kids learn the fundamentals and the proper technique to give the kids a solid foundation of the sport is also another thing the camp staff looks forward to. Even if keeping kids focused can be challenging due to short attention spans, the staff works through those challenges. The staff has found much success through keeping the kids engaged through activity.

“Soccer, the world’s greatest game, is so great because of how fluent and intense it is,” Gorman said. “The game is about constantly moving.”

“It’s tough, but when you’re working with kids, you have to get them moving,” Gorman said. “If you have exercises that engage them in movement, and they’re fun, they are better. But the key is to get them moving, get them to do something–hopefully exercises that they’re familiar with–then they will be much more ready to jump right into it.”

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