Puyallup: Sports

Player-coaches take special role in community building at Spartan girls soccer camp

Campers play games to improve their agility during the Spartans youth soccer camp at Sunset Chevy Stadium in Sumner last week.
Campers play games to improve their agility during the Spartans youth soccer camp at Sunset Chevy Stadium in Sumner last week. jbessex@gateline.com

There were kids all over the pitch last week at Sumner High School.

As player-coaches from the Sumner High girls soccer team — from Jordan Thompson to Sarah Rowan to Sam Larberg — scrambled here and there on the field, campers got a little taste of everything soccer has to offer at the four-day camp at Sunset Chev Stadium.

It was perfect weather all week, as the Spartans hosted more than 70 boys and girls ranging from kindergarten to fourth grade who came out to learn soccer and enjoy the break in the summer.

“We always hold the camp on the hottest days of the summer,” said Sumner coach Robi Turley, who enjoyed her largest group of campers since she opened the camp several years ago. “But everyone seems to enjoy being outdoors and getting away from their normal day-to-day lives. For parents, campers and especially the coaches, it provides them a break.”

A break, for many of the Spartans from the high school team, that’s much deserved.

The girls soccer camp focused more on the youngest kids of the area as all coaches took on big sister responsibilities to the campers.

“Some of the (kids) don’t listen,” Rowan, a midfielder, said with a laugh. “It’s fun. It’s a good experience for the kids and (for us) on how we run the program. It makes me see my future more with what I want to do. I kind of want to be a teacher, and I like kids.”

So every moment of games like head-catch — a modified version of Duck, duck, goose — or times where the coaches are surrounded by campers as they teach lessons of the game, it all comes down to this special connection the Spartans have made with this demographic. Every year the campers are asked to return to a game during the season, becoming honorary members of the Spartan soccer family as they take to the field during halftime.

It’s a small a gesture, but one that creates a greater bond between both school and the kids who come out

“Honestly, it’s just super fun being around kids who are just trying to play the sport, and seeing them just love the game. Their energy is always fun to match. Honestly, it’s been really fun coaching all of them,” Larberg said. “Last year we had a bunch of them come out one of the (games), and it was really fun to get to see all of them.”

Each year as the camp grew, and as new faces came into the fold, Turley continually noticed the commitment her coaches have put into working with the kids each year, no matter how busy they are.

This is what matters for the team. This connection that they create — one where the player-coaches hopes to create into future Spartan soccer players.

“It’s awesome to build the program early, and just make it a good community in Sumner,” Larberg said.

And as the camp was coming to a close on the morning of the final day, as campers and most of the player-coaches came in for water, Turley was able to take in everything about what camps like this year’s means to her and the program.

“We’ve been fortunate to have so many girls like that come through this program who are willing to put so much time into the program,” Turley said, looking off at the lone player-coach left at midfield. “Those players are special because they’re at every practice, every volunteer meeting and they’re here at these camps putting in the hours. When your name’s out there in the community in a sport, and kids recognize you out here, it means so much more for them.”

As the last straggling kids left Thompson alone at midfield, the future Gonzaga University Bulldog kicked up a ball and started juggling, without a care in the world. Like a kid on the pitch.

“Those are the special kind of players to come around,” Turley added.