British bring 'football' here
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
It's not every day that you hear soccer coaches tell their players to "meet the ball at pace" or that a wide shot was "unlucky," but those phrases are what filled the air in Hartselle last week.
Thirty-six area soccer players got an introduction to British culture and learned a little more about the game that Europeans call "football" at the MLS Camp held June 13-17 at Walker Field.
The camp was part of the nationwide MLS Camps, Inc., based in Mystic, Conn., which brings soccer players from the United Kingdom over to the United States to teach camps across the Southeast.
Hartselle High School soccer coach Darrell Harris said that the camp provides a unique experience for young soccer aficionados.
"The kids really look up to these players, because a lot of these players are close to the kids' age, so they see them as role models," he said. "It's funny to hear our boys start to sound like the British players after awhile; they start picking up their accents."
Simon Barrow, Jordan Hallpike, Siobhan Rooney and Chris Sewell led the camp that was attended from boys that ranged from nine years old to seniors in high school.
For nine weeks, the four Brits will travel across the Southeast to put on similar camps.
"[It's strange to be playing in] 95-degree heat," said Barrow, from Liverpool, England. "But the kids are really keen and respectful of their coaches. They seem to follow the British soccer leagues more than MLS, so they really enjoy having some players from Britain come over here."
Barrow, Hallpike and Sewell are from England, while Rooney hails from Scotland. Rooney is currently a member of the girls soccer team at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.
Coaches with MLS Camps have to find their own lodgings overseas, so it is not uncommon for local sponsors to house the coaches. Three of the four coaches at this year's camp are staying with Harris, who had seven of his high school players attend the camp.
"When we first saw [MLS Camps] we knew that this is what we wanted," Harris said. "The instruction level is high and they have a lot they can teach our kids."
The coaches relish the opportunity to share more than just technique with their campers.
"It's been an excellent experience," said Sewell, from Durham, England. "This is really about a cultural exchange as well. We want to show these kids more than just soccer.
"The hospitality here has been great. I've been to a lot of places, but I prefer Alabama the best. I've fallen in love with the place."