Overseas influence

HOWLAND – Elliot Juggins has a lot of experience in the sport of soccer.

The 21-year-old London native started playing the game when he was 6 years old, playing competitively until the age of 18. While he still plays on his university team, he’s turned his sights onto coaching.

The European soccer governing body, UEFA, gives out coaching licenses in levels, and Juggins has his UEFA C license, which is the lowest on the pyramid. He’s working on his B license and should have it in one year, allowing him to coach professionally.

“I’ve been coaching for about five years, and I really wanted to get out to America, just to experience the American lifestyle, the culture and just to see the place itself,” Juggins said. “I enjoy coaching, so to coach the kids out here and teach British soccer is something that I really want to get across to them so they understand how to play it back home.”

This is why he’s one of the many coaches for the Challenger Sports British Soccer Camps, which are given throughout the country. He and 21-year-old Liverpool native Andy Woolfenden coached at the camp in Howland Township Park this week.

The British Soccer Camps are designed to bring coaches from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to the United States and teach the game the way they learned. The groups are split into four, starting with the kids having no experience called “first kicks” to the full-day camps for kids with more experience.

The camps stresses the idea of getting each player at least 1,000 touches of the ball, making sure the kids develop their skills with the ball. The players go through the core skills every day, including passing, dribbling, shooting, heading, volleying and defending, and they also get an opportunity to learn tricks and flicks and how to juggle.

Based on their experience so far, a lot of the young American players have good talent and skills when it comes to soccer, but they lack a sense of positioning on the pitch (the British word for field) that their counterparts in Great Britain have.

“We were talking to a few American coaches, and at a young age over here, they’re told to stay in their position,” Woolfenden said. “Some of them are told they can’t run past a certain point if they’re on defense, or they can’t come back past a certain point if they’re on offense.

“It’s just getting them to move about a bit more and we say this: ‘You’re in defense. There’s nothing wrong with you if you’ve got the ball and you’ve got space running right up the other end of the pitch, just as long as someone else knows to cover you.’ “

Juggins and Woolfenden worked on the lack of tactical awareness and much more despite the extreme heat.

The camp was split into two sessions – from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m. – in order to miss the worst of the heat, but it was still a struggle. The two Englishmen tried to alleviate the problems associated with such weather by allowing many water breaks.

They also tried to do most of the teaching early in the sessions and let the kids have more fun later.

“We work hard at the earlier start of the session – that’s when we really see what the kids have learned,” Juggins said. “We take pride in what they learn and then put into the scrimmage at the end.”

On top of the physical teaching, Juggins and Woolfenden said they want to increase the kids overall enthusiasm in the game through a “World Cup” component.

The kids are assigned a country about which they learn and bring in a self-made replication of that country’s flag. In previous camps the two conducted, some of the kids have been quite creative.

“A few weeks ago, someone spray-painted their dog, and brought the dog along with the flag on,” Woolfenden said. “I don’t know how they got it off.”

Back to the practical part of the game, Juggins and Woolfenden said they’ve been impressed with the skill level of the players during the camps in the United States.

“When you see potential in some of the children and you realize the potential is there for you to develop it and by the end of the week you see them develop it further and you see what you’ve taught them they can then develop even further outside of the camp, it really brings your passionate side of coaching into play,” Juggins said. “That’s what you take out most when you see the children developing into better players, and that’s what’s coaching is all about.”