Soccer hopefuls meet top-notch talent

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D.C. United players offer inspiration at camp

By Mike Forster

How often does one get pointers from a real, live sports professional?

For some, it was just this past week.  That is, if one was at the Blue Ridge Soccer Camp.

The camp, which was held at Sweet Briar College, in Amherst, saw visits from D.C. United’s John DiRaimondo and Brandon Barklage.

The two players drove down from Washington to share their insights of the game with the 115 camp participants.

“These camps are great,” said DiRaimondo.  “I was in their shoes at one point.”

Most of the players’ time was spent taking questions from the eager campers.  Hard work and practice were stressed in many of the responses.

“We were no different from you,” said DiRaimondo, in recounting his move up the chain from rec ball player to the highest rung of U.S. professional soccer.

Afterwards, DiRaimondo said, “It’s nice just to mingle with the kids.  If you can inspire just one, it’s worth it.”

The campers found more to be inspired by than just the presence of the pros.

The camp, hosted by Jefferson Forest boys’ varsity coach Jedd Zaring, featured top-notch coaching talent, including Randy Turille and Darien McClurg, who coach the E.C. Glass boys and girls teams, respectively.  

Frankie Taal, coach of North Carolina Wesleyan (a top 10 team in division 3), and Greg Rideout, from Lynchburg College, were also spotted.

Adam Roscioli took a break from his playing at ODU to lend a hand to his old JF coach.  Roscioli had current teammate Nick Foglesong along for the trip.

In all, it seemed to be an eye-opener for many of the participants.

Megan Beisser stated that she liked the game simulations the best.  An overnight camper, Beisser noted that the camp also taught responsibility, such as taking care not to lose her room key.

Mariel Messier said, “The camp gives you practice during the summer you don’t normally get.”

The Bedford Middle Schooler noted that staying on campus gave her “an experience like being in college and staying in a dorm.”

More importantly, Messier liked the fact that she was meeting competitors from other schools she plays against.  “Now we can be friends,” she smiled.

Laura Garbarini focused on the new skills she had picked up, including “learning about getting around defenders and positioning for shots.”

Matthew Thompson, an eighth grader at Bedford Middle School, said, “I’ve learned how to play better defense.”  That should come in handy as he plays for CV United.

This is the 18th year for the camp.  “When we started,” said Coach Zaring, “the idea was to bring quality coaches and players together to give exposure to local players at a different level.

“It hasn’t really changed.”

Zaring noted that, with an age range of 7 to 18, one of the nice aspects of the camp is seeing the players develop.  “Some kids come in tentative and they grow.  For some, this is a first camp experience.”

David Horne, 8, seemed to enjoy the social aspects.  “I make new friends and see old ones,” he enthused.  “It’s so much fun, I can’t explain it.”