One of the most successful, and longest running, soccer camps for children is coming back to Oxford and FNC Park this summer. Challenger Sports’ annual British Soccer instruction is popular for children because it combines the right amount of teaching with fun to form a perfect marriage.
The week-long camps are not only instructional, but they expose players ages 3 to 14 to a new culture. All of the soccer coaches are professionals, and they are dedicated to the sport of soccer. The goal of the camp is to teach the sport, the fundamentals, as well as to continue to promote the love of a sport that has grown tremendously locally.
“Everyone that comes out with us to the camp is a professional soccer coach. We try and keep it fun for these kids, but, at the same time it’s not babysitting. We’re sending high quality soccer coaches who have been through a pretty intense interview process,” said Ross Lawrence, who is the regional director for Challenger Sports and very familiar with Oxford. “They get interviewed then they come to a one-day training event and then our full-time staff from U.S. flies over to the U.K for a weekend to interview them again. So, anyone who comes to the States has interviewed three times. We’ve watched them coaching three times and we’re confident they are the best of the people that have interviewed. They have been vetted pretty thoroughly and we’re not just going to accept everyone.”
Lawrence said the soccer instruction organization has been in the United States the past 25 years, and they are the No. 1 soccer camp provider in America because all of the instructors know the sport, but are also child care providers.
“They all come out here with the aim of providing an enjoyable experience, an educational experience, with everyone they work with,” Lawrence said. “Being here 10 weeks in the summer is something they love doing, and for that reason, they are making the most of that week and wanting to have as much fun and training as they can before they have to go back to the UK for their full-time jobs. It’s a proven program the past 25 years and one that I believe in very much.”
Another program that Oxford residents should be familiar with that is provided by Lawrence and Challenger are Mini Kickers, which is geared to children ages 3 to 5.
“That program has consistently been 50 kids and our highest has been over 100 kids to sign up in the spring and fall,” Lawrence said. “Our soccer camp is consistently over 30 kids every week and the highest has been 75 on week. I think the camps are successful because it’s something completely different for these kids that they’re not going to get on a week-to-week basis.”
The growth of the Oxford Soccer Club, which has now merged with Tupelo to create the North Mississippi Soccer Academy, has been helped by Mini Kickers and British Soccer Camp.
“We keep people involved, we show them that soccer is fun and we keep them coming back,” Lawrence said.
The first of two camps at FNC will be held June 26-30. Mini Soccer is for ages 3 to 6 and it runs from 8 to 9 a.m. Cost is $100. For a half day, which is for ages 6 to 14, the cost is $149. Those camps run from 9 in the morning until noon. The second soccer camp runs from July 17 through July 21. Cost and times are the same. Registration is available online at challlengersports.com. A free jersey is available if signup happens before June 2 for the second camp.