Home Local Sports PHOTOS: Richmond soccer camp celebrates 25th anniversary

PHOTOS: Richmond soccer camp celebrates 25th anniversary

Middle school and high school campers scrimmage during Thursday's final day of camp. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — One of Richmond County’s largest youth athletic camps of the summer wrapped up Thursday, complete with scrimmages, popsicles, water balloons and squirt guns. 

The Richmond Senior High School soccer program hosted around 115 campers at its annual development camp this week. The camp celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. 

Held for four days on the school’s soccer and football fields, campers ages five to 16 learned new skills and put them to the test during the last day. 

“Camp went pretty well this year,” Chris Larsen, Richmond’s head boys and girls soccer coach, said. “Even though we were down 20-25 kids from the last few years, we still made it a really good week.

“We really focused on fundamentals and growing the kids’ knowledge of basic soccer concepts,” he added. “They learned them each day and were able to practice those skills throughout the week. It was a hot week, but everyone seemed to really enjoy camp.”

Over the course of the four three-hour sessions, campers were split up into four age brackets — 5-6, 7-8, 9-11 and 12-16-year-olds. Based on each group’s level of experience, varying skills and concepts were taught.

Larsen said focus areas were passing, shooting, dribbling, ball control, communication, agility and “having fun.”

Working with the youngest age group were three recently graduated Richmond soccer players — Jenna Gardner, Gabby Lutz and Allie Rodgers.

“Jenna, Allie and Gabby did a good job instructing the younger group,” Larsen shared. “They played a lot of soccer and taught them the basics while making it fun with water balloons and the water hose.”

Former soccer player Caroline Whitley and rising junior Jentry Denson coached the 7-8-year olds. 

“Caroline and Jentry were able to offer more structured instruction,” Larsen explained. “With that age group it’s important to build off the basic skills and apply them in 2-vs-2 or scrimmage situations.”

The largest age group with over 30 campers was the 9-11-year-olds, which was led by former Lady Raider soccer players Jessi Weigman and Kyra Wall.

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Most of the final session was spent playing relay races that worked on ball control and shooting, as well as scrimmages. Larsen said, “a lot more team concepts can be taught” with this age group and that “the kids really improved throughout the week.”

Assisting with camp this year with the middle school and high school campers was Ray Blatz, the head soccer coach at Union Pines High School. 

Blatz was helped by his sons Ethan and Sean Blatz, both of whom played at the college level. Rising senior Landon Summerlin also helped coach the group.

“Coach Blatz, Sean and Ethan did a great job working with that group,” Larsen said. “They brought a lot of knowledge to our campers. And it was great to see Landon giving back knowing he was a camper just a few years ago.

“I was really impressed with the level of play. There are some really skilled middle school and rising ninth players who I look forward to having play at Richmond. It was a really good level of competition for all of them.”

While the middle school and high school campers worked out Thursday, a handful of goalkeepers worked with Sean Blatz, who is a goalkeeper at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania and who attended Union Pines.

“Sean was a fantastic keeper in high school when we faced him,” Larsen said. “We were lucky to have him for three days this week to give more specialized keeper training than we have had in recent years.

“That was a plus for our keepers since that’s Sean’s craft and he plays that position. He was able to share his expertise and that will pay dividends for our keepers.”

The middle school and high school campers spent the final hour of Thursday’s session scrimmaging.

Tedder Trash Solutions and Top Guns Strength and Performance Gym donated popsicles throughout the week, a gesture Larsen said helped keep the campers cool and energized. 

Below are photos from Thursday’s final day of camp, taken by sports editor Kyle Pillar.