This article was originally published in the Harker Quarterly Spring 2011 Edition
Harker Elite Soccer Camp strives to provide a professional soccer environment for players to immerse themselves in the game. Camps are open to players ages 9-16 of all levels. Our challenging, structured curriculum, combined with the outstanding caliber of our coaches, ensures players receive high-quality instruction, tailored specifically to their needs. Varsity soccer coach Shaun Tsakiris brings a uniquely Harker approach to the clinics, hand-picking his coaches for their playing experience (often professionals) and coaching expertise.
“These are people who have chosen to stay in the game to work with kids after retiring from playing,” he said. They consider it their mission to find the inner athlete in every player, whatever the ability level, and help each one advance. How they do that is a bit unusual and fun.
While every day ends with a scrimmage, what comes before may look only vaguely like soccer. Tsakiris is a big fan of psychomotor training; that is, getting the body to do what the mind tells it. To this end, players may be asked to dribble a soccer ball with the left foot while bouncing a ball with the right hand, all while navigating an obstacle course.
Each morning begins with agility, coordination and balance exercises, which support the players’ ability to master such skills as proper balance on the plant foot while passing or quick acceleration after changing direction. A lesson that ends with dribbling the soccer ball may start with jumping hurdles.
Players also learn to play in a variety of contexts, including small-sided game, large game (large goals) and futsal. Why mix it up so much? Tsakiris uses futsal, for example, to target foot skills under gamelike conditions. “With only four or five players on a team, each gets a lot of touches on the ball, and that helps them develop craftiness,” he said, referring to the ability to smoothly weave around opponents.
Players receive a soccer ball and T-shirt at the start of each week, and an individual evaluation completed by their coach at the end. The last day of each clinic also brings a surprise guest speaker. Special guests in past years have included San Jose Earthquakes goalie Joe Canon and Olympic gold medalist Aly Wagner of the U.S. women’s national team.