Dozens of boys & girls turn out for 15th annual clinic

For more than a decade-and-a-half Wallenpaupack Area Head boys soccer coach Scott Bonagura has been pulling local lads and lasses together every spring for a four-week youth soccer clinic.

Kids from kindergarten through sixth-grade, some with no playing experience and some veterans of the youth soccer league meet for an hour each Monday at the Intermediate and Middle School gyms for some fun and games designed to build their soccer skills.

“This is the biggest group of kids we’ve had yet!” exclaimed the Buckhorns skipper. “We have a 145 this year and the attendance has been strong each week.

“The kids are excited to play and each week they are coming back and showing that they can apply the skills they learned the previous week.”

Kicking Around

Each week, the various grade levels meet for an hour where they spend the first half of the session playing games designed to develop their skills before breaking up into four squads to play two small scrimmage games for the remainder of the time.

Each session begins with some warm-up drills and games that build on what the players learned the week before. Sometimes they make a blunder or get distracted, but surprisingly, more often than not, even the youngest of the participants seem to do a good job at getting down what the coaches are trying to teach.

Game time is what all the kids want.

Clad in a colorful assortment of pinnies, the students separate into squads for the scrimmage and let loose for a good 20 minutes or so.

Sneakers squeaking, balls bouncing, occasionally one of the players will remember to pass the ball to a teammate but chances are good if a child has control of the ball, her or she is going to the goal with it.

Past Experience

Surprisingly, what the kids are experiencing isn’t new to many of them.

A good amount of the participants, even at the entry-level, played in the Wallenpaupack Youth Soccer League, this past fall. There too, at the very basic levels at least, the format is the same.

Half an hour of skills, half an hour of play for the six and under kids, weekly practices and games for the older players.

“The youth soccer league has grown,” said Coach Bonagura, who also serves as the league’s Director of Training. “We have good leadership and good support and the fall program gets the kids excited about the winter program.

“Youth soccer has also done tremendous things for our middle school and high school teams. The kids arrive at the higher-level programs with better skills every year and we’ve been on a good streak for four or five years where this is evident in the high school programs.”

Helping Hands

The adult instruction comes from among the high school and junior high coaches, M’Liss Bonagura, Katie Scholenko, Brian Campbell, and Matt Struck.

Players such as Sean Vennie, Thomas Principe, Ashdon Struck, Cole Struck, Evan Peppiatt, Tyler Graham, Mike Pitino, Aaron Rogers, Katie Mancino, Hannah Whaley, Aliah Balch, Emily Langan, Stephanie Felmly and Sydney Colwell pitch in as student-coaches.

“Except for the Strucks, who moved here, all of the high school and middle school players that are helping out have all been participants in the soccer academy,” Bonagura said.

“This is one of the most active group of student-coaches we’ve had too. They are really getting into the games and interacting with the younger kids.”

Up Ahead

While the indoor clinics wrap up this week, there’s always more in store when it comes to Wallenpaupack Soccer.

Undoubtedly many of these youngsters will participate in the summer academy, a week-long program that runs from June 24-28 at the high school.

Kindergarteners through sixth graders will have the opportunity to attend a four-hour session from 8 a.m. until noon daily.

The cost is $85 and all campers get a ball and shirt. Again, the sessions are designed to be fun and focus on skill building.

Older kids with a desire to play at the junior high or high school level may attend the four-night session for $50 from June 24-27 between 5-8 p.m.