Soccer kicks off UI Sports camps


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Unfamiliar feet will run up and down the fields of the Iowa Soccer Complex this week.

Hawkeye athletics camps have begun, and the women's soccer team is the first to open its gates to 90 kids ranging from 5 to 18 years old.

The first — and most important — task for each group is to pick a team name.

The youngest group, with members 5 to 6 years old, quickly comes to the decision to be called the Hawkeyes, which has become an unofficial tradition for the camp.

The 7 to 8 year olds, however, must decide if they want to be called Team Bacon or the Tigers. It is resolved quickly — they are the Bacon-Eating Tigers.

Along with head coach Ron Rainey and assistant coaches Shane Meridith and Julie Hanley, four members of the Iowa soccer team also act as coaches for the younger half of the group. Leah DeMoss, Kat Lewis, Alex Melin, and Katie Nasenbenny share their experiences with the campers.

On Monday, the practice field is quickly filled with pink, blue, yellow, and green pennies — all child-size — while the older half of the campers are taken to the playing field.

During the day, the campers on the practice field not only learn from their coaches but from each other. There is plenty of discussion among the younger players during Sharks and Minnows, a game in which a camper, the "minnow," has to make it down the field without having her ball kicked away by a "shark."

"No pushing. Pay attention," Nasenbenny said as she led a large group in the game, trying to make it as fair as possible.

After three times down the field, only four minnows are left against 15 sharks. The sharks must sit on the ground and face away from the minnows until Nasenbenny tells them to get up. Even after these measures, the minnows don't stand a chance.

On another field, DeMoss joins a game after instructing her group for a few minutes during a scrimmage.

This is DeMoss' first time helping with the summer camp, and she finds running with players who only come up to her hip much more fun than her normal Big Ten opponents.

"They try really, really hard," she said. "I would rather play soccer with [the campers] all day than the girls I usually play against."

On the other side of the Soccer Complex, there are games of higher intensity. The older campers run drills and scrimmages that not only better their understanding of the game but also help them push past their weaknesses.

Lauren Kiel, a junior at Lake Park High in Illinois, enjoyed her first day at the Soccer Camp.

"I actually played against Leah [DeMoss] when I was a freshman in high school and she was a senior," Kiel said. "We tied them on their own field, which was a big deal for us."

The Iowa soccer staff has created an environment in which the current players and coaches can give guidance to future athletes such as Kiel, who is one of the many who wish to someday play for the Hawkeyes.

Many of the campers have come back to the UI camp over and over, not only for the summer sessions but also for the winter, collecting knowledge, T-shirts, and black and yellow soccer balls.

"We have a lot of returning players," Meridith said. "One kid even asked if he had to take another ball because he has about eight at home."

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