Sun, Oct. 20

'The pitch' a popular place for Verde Valley athletes

Staff photo by Eric Lusk

KRISTEN Currence, a member of the Verde Valley Virus, works on her goalie skills with NAU coach Andre Luciano.

Camp Verde just had one – bringing in a group of British coaches to work with young players last week.

Verde Valley’s AYSO league is getting ready to have one – inviting another group from the UK to work with kids at Cottonwood Middle School this week.

Later this summer, the Verde Valley Soccer Club will invite several coaches from Arizona junior colleges and the Arizona Heatwave (a women’s professional team based in Phoenix) to train its tournament teams.

There shouldn’t be any excuses for kids not knowing their soccer fundamentals when their seasons roll around again this fall, winter and spring.

One of the hardest working groups on the camp-and-clinic circuit right now is the Verde Valley Virus, an Under-16 girls traveling team. Coach Buddy Rhodes asked his returning players what they wanted out of the summer, and they all agreed – "More training."

So Rhodes put together an ambitious schedule, setting up separate training sessions with members of the Heatwave, coaches from Northern Arizona University’s women’s team and University of Arizona player Jennifer Klein – as well as the team camp in late July.

Rhodes himself is spending this weekend and next deepening his knowledge of the game as he goes for his "D" coaching license along with about a dozen others from the area.

It’s neat to see the deep commitment level many in the Verde Valley have when it comes to soccer. There is something for everyone, it seems, whether they are just learning the game, wanting to play for fun or pursuing a spot on a high school varsity team.

It’s neat, too, to see local teams developing a deeper relationship with college coaches around the state. That can only help both parties, as players gain more exposure and colleges learn about the largely untapped talent-base found here in the Verde Valley.

NAU women’s coach Andre Luciano told the Virus girls that "there is a place for every one of you" who dream of playing college soccer.

He encouraged young players, even those not yet in high school, to contact colleges they may one day hope to play for. Coaches tend to take more notice of players who have taken initiative with them.

Lastly, he encouraged them to get a soccer ball at their feet every day, even if it’s just kicking it around their backyard or passing to themselves off the side of the house.

"The United States is the only country where coaches have to tell you to practice soccer," the Brazilian-born coach said. "We played all the time (in Brazil). We’d play on empty tennis courts. We’d play with just bladders of balls."

There is still room to participate in this week’s AYSO camp at Cottonwood Middle School. Call Jack Hillman (284-2225) or Terrence Milligan (649-0653) or be at the school by 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning.

The Verde Valley Soccer Club will be holding tryouts for its boys and girls teams (ages 10-19) on Saturday, June 28 at 8 a.m. at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds. Look for more details soon.

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