Local officials host 14th annual clinic
There really is no “off-season” for soccer when it comes to Wallenpaupack Area boys varsity coach Scott Bonagura.
The Buckhorns skipper juggles the high school team, the local youth program, travel ball, spring clinics at the middle school, and his Next Level program at the Sports Factory in White Mills.
Last week, along with a hefty crew of knowledgeable coaches ranging from high school students to seasoned counterparts from other varsity and college programs, the 14th annual Buckhorn Soccer Academy took to the turf on the shores of The Big Lake.
“The coaches have a lot of experience,” Bonagura said. “We also had fourteen high school players helping out and that adds a lot of energy to the staff.”
This year, the Paupack stadium was the venue for the yearly event.
With the middle school fields closed for improvements, the morning session day-campers got a taste of what it’s like to play on the same field as their older role-models.
For the older participants that attend the evening sessions, it was a welcome opportunity to get in some time on a pitch they’ll see a few times during the upcoming season.
Focusing on basic skill development, the morning camp was geared towards the 4-11-year-olds.
Of the 92 that attended, some were newcomers to the sport, but many had been playing in the area youth league for several years and were not only soccer veterans, but past campers as well.
Not dissimilar to the indoor weekly clinics Bonagura and his team of coaches, volunteers, and student athletes hold during the winter, campers got a healthy dose of skill building drills and fun games that emphasize repetition and maximize touches on the ball.
“One day we focused on dribbling, another on passing,” Bonagura said.
“We built on what we taught the previous day all leading up to Friday’s culmination of putting all those skills together.”
The 30 who came for the evening slot were older players, generally 12-18-year-olds looking to sharpen their skills and enhance their chances of making the cut for middle school or high school teams once fall rolls around.
For the older players, soccer camp was all about learning tactics, developing skills for specific positions, and using them in a game situation. Running plays and short scrimmages, much like they would encounter in daily practice at the JV or Varsity level, was the name of the game for these kids.
“We had a good mix of middle schoolers and high school players,” Bonagura said. “The night sessions are much more competitive now than they were a few years ago. Most were day campers and play through the year.
“They got a lot out of it and it was a good challenge for them.”
The one thing that seems to hit home with Coach Bonagura are the high school players that come to help every year.
Most were campers, and he’s not shy about pointing that fact out to the elementary school aged players sitting around at the closing camp ceremonies.
“The younger kids really look up to the older players as role models,” explained Bonagura. “That’s important, but it’s also great that those high schoolers get a taste of what it’s like to coach. It gives them a greater understanding of what we do as coaches and they take that with them into the season.”
Above all, though, Bonagura appreciates the fact that so many of them that come to help were once campers themselves.
“It’s very rewarding to see players that were campers give back and pass on their love for soccer.”
It’ll be a while before those that love to watch Paupack soccer can do so.
While both the boys and girls squads plan to hit the pitch during the week for some summer sessions, kickoff for the season is still a few weeks away.
The lads have a scrimmage against East Stroudsburg North slated for August 18 and then commence operations over Labor Day weekend with their two-day tournament starting August 31.
Lackawanna Soccer League play begins at home versus Scranton Prep on September 4 at 4:15 p.m.
The lasses scrimmage Pocono Mountain East on August 20 and then move to defend their title at the 8th Annual Jamie Kotula Kick-Off Classic at Marywood University over Labor Day weekend. The girls take on Prep in their opening game.
They will face the Classics on the road on September 5 at 4:15 before returning home to play Abington Heights on September 7, at 4:15 p.m.