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Jedd Zaring has one major goal, among others, for his annual Blue Ridge Soccer Academy summer camp. ?I like to bring in guys who can demonstrate what a good player looks like,? said the head coach of the Jefferson Forest boys? program.
This year, the coach?s wish came through in spades with the appearance of Jeff Carroll at the camp, held last week at Sweet Briar College.
Carroll is a member of the Major Soccer League?s DC United, one of the premier teams at the nation?s highest level of soccer.
The camp drew 150 participants in this, its 16th year. Zaring opens the camp to all comers, noting that the Amherst area has sent numerous campers over the years, while the school?s varsity program has grown in proficiency. ?We?re trying to grow the sport in this area,? said Zaring. ?Ultimately, we want everyone in the area to get better.?
Exposure to players such as Carroll should certainly help in that endeavor.
Carroll?s message was straightforward. ?You?re going to encounter obstacles and you have to work through them,? said the 24-year old pro. ?Anybody can be a professional if you?re willing to put in the time.?
Arguably, Carroll?s got something in the family blood line that helps. Brothers Brian (Columbus) and Pat (DC) also suit up for MLS teams.
Carroll is in his third season with DC United, following a college career that led his St. John?s team to the NCAA finals. ?I see myself as a role model,? he stated. ?I come from the same place that these kids are.?
At the same time, Carroll wants to come across as sincere and well-grounded. ?I don?t throw inspirational stories at the kids,? he stated. ?I try to get them excited about the sport itself.?
Campers observed over the course of a day at Sweet Briar certainly seemed excited by the sport, as well as by the camp. Peter Maxwell, an 8-year-old from Bedford Elementary, declared that he wanted to be a soccer player. ?I love the camp?playing soccer and meeting new friends,? said Maxwell. ?I learned better moves, like the scissors.?
Upon Carroll?s arrival, Maxwell said, ?Meeting him was pretty new. It?s the first time I?ve ever met (a professional player). It was pretty exciting.?
Maxwell noted that the food was pretty good too, including cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, fries and lemonade.
Owen Hughes, 10 years old from Forest Elementary, stated, ?I?m seeing improvement on my shooting,? as a result of his participation in the camp.
Mollie Aveson, a 10-year-old at Boonsboro Elementary, seemed pleased with her progress. ?We?re learning dribbling and tick-tocking with the ball,? she said. ?We?re getting to play a lot of soccer.?
A pair of brothers, Ben and Chris Garbarini, seemed to be enjoying all aspects of the camp. ??It?s teaching me stuff I didn?t know, like the chop,? said 9-year-old Ben.
Added Chris, ?I?m learning stops. I really like the scrimmages,? adding that soccer is the 7-year-old?s favorite sport.
Big Island?s Thomas Allen, 9, showed off his new skills, including a behind the leg passing technique he?d picked up in the camp.
The camp wasn?t only for the wee ones, however. Joe LaClair, who played on Rustburg?s JV last year, was joined by three other Red Devil teammates at the camp. ?This camp is worthwhile,? said LaClair. ?I plan to come to it next year. To me it doesn?t matter who runs it, as long as he does a good job,? he said of the strong JF presence.
Michael Orvos, a freshman from Amherst noted, ?I like getting exposed to different coaches. They?re helpful and supportive.?
Over 20 coaches provided that help and support to the campers. Included in that staff were such leaders as Steve Allison, director of coaching for the Austin (TX) soccer club and Steven Chapman, head coach of Deep Run High School (Virginia?s AAA state champions this year).
Carroll gave advice to the campers on their relationships with coaches. ?When a coach talks to you, you should take it as advice,? he said. ?Don?t think of it as criticism.?
He also stressed that, when watching a game on television, one should focus. ?Pick out a player that plays your position,? he advised. ?Watch him and then try to emulate him.?