Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Kaylen Gehrke
Members of the Chicago Fire soccer team came to Effingham last week to spark more interest in the sport.
The camp brought in professional youth coaches to Evergreen Park for teaching dozens of children hands-on about soccer. The Chicago Fire coaches also operate under the one-to-one ratio for a ball to each kid. This helps keep the kids learning about how to play the game and improving upon their skills.
The endorsement helped to draw 77 kids to participate, whereas only 30 were to be expected. “By starting more progressive youth [soccer] camps help the sport become more popular,” said Local Effingham high school coach, Lee Althoff.
Athoff’s motivations lie in attempting to see better high school and collegiate athletes in the area by grassroots interest early on for soccer. Althoff is also spearheading the Effingham Crossroads Soccer Club, a competitive youth league, which will be forming soon. He strives to inspire Effingham’s children to get involved with the sport and perfect their skills.
“Soccer has exploded down here,” stated Athletic Director of the Effingham Park District, Steve Boswell. The goal of the summer camp involves encouraging the Effingham youth to play soccer. The camp organizers hope this has an impact on the kids to want to play it in the future.
Coupling with Chicago Fire for the camp brought an international expertise. Coaches from Youth League Soccer came to educate the kids about the sport. Coach Stephen Mason, from Essex, England, who has been coaching for 12 years, says his favorite part is how rewarding it is to see the kids’ progress. Coach Claire Kilmartin, from Cambridge, England, loves “watching them enjoying themselves, working together and having them a good laugh.” Kilmartin who has been playing soccer since age five and coaching since she was 13, is very experienced and genuinely enjoys her line of work.
A participant, 8-year-old Gunner James, from Newton, Ill., says his favorite aspect of the camp is, “playing practice games.” This is James’s first time at the camp and he is attending with his brother, Jackson James, age 6, who states that he likes, “learning how to play soccer.”
The dedication of the coaches and sponsors truly radiates. Their passion to encourage the youth also resonates within the community. The work put in to trigger an interest in soccer begins by educating them at a young age. Igniting soccer into the community creates a lasting impression and a love for the sport which is the exact intention of the camp.