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MSA State Academy Soccer Camp comes to area


Adam Minichino



Seeing traffic lights, pulling bibs, and mimicking sounds of race cars don't sound like traditional lessons. 


But Dr. Terry Eguaoje and Preston Nailor showed Monday that those drills are just a few of the teaching methods they will employ this week at the Mississippi Soccer Association State Academy Soccer Camp at the Burns Bottom Soccer Complex in Columbus. The first group of boys and girls, ages 4-8, trained from 9-10 a.m., while the second group, ages 9-14, worked from 1-2:30 p.m. 


"With the age group we have, our main focus is ball control," Eguaoje said. "As we do that, we're going to try to use different analogies. One of my activities was traffic lights. That is something the kids can relate to. You can see the kids begin to pick their heads up while moving the ball around just because they wanted to see what color light I was holding up." 


This is the second time Eguaoje, the director of coaching for the MSA, has held a camp to Columbus. Last year, he worked a smaller camp at the Cook Soccer Complex. This year, he and Nailor, a nationally licensed coach and the soccer coach at Florence High School, hope their participation in the MSA State Academy Soccer Camp and other camps for older players after the first two sessions help the game of soccer grow in Lowndes County. 


Eguaoje has heard the complaints from soccer players and parents that many of the MSA State Academy Soccer Camp opportunities -- approximately three per year -- are held in Jackson. He hopes this year's camp is the first step to spreading the knowledge about the sport. He praised Columbus United Director of Coaching Tom Velek for helping organize the camp. 


The next step could come later this year and next year when Columbus will play host to the Coaches Cup Tournament in November and the Presidents Cup in May 2014. 


In the meantime, Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Program Director Greg Lewis said this week's camp is just another step Columbus is taking to grow as a soccer community. 


"This is going to be tremendous for all of our children," said Lewis, who said nearly 50 players will participate in the two sessions, which is much larger than the turnout last year. "Dr. Terry knows a lot about soccer. He is a gem. He really wants to reach out to the younger children so they have all of the skills." 


Eguaoje said the camp is another way for MSA to expand the reach of its brand. He said he welcomes more opportunities to visit other communities in the state to help teach players and coaches about the game. He feels it is just a matter of time before more people get "energized" about the game of soccer. 


Nailor did his part by modifying his lessons to fit his players. The father of 4- and 6-year-old boys, Nailor served as ring leader for his half of the group in the morning session. His goal was simple: To get the players moving with the ball.  


He did that by instructing the boys and girls to dribble their soccer balls and to chase the other members of the group in an attempt to pull their "bib", or colored mesh workout jersey, from their waistbands. 


In another drill, Nailor had the players mimic the sounds of a fast car and a slow car and then asked them to dribble and to move into space at varying speeds.  


His hope was to instill a fundamental skill younger players will be able to learn and, he hopes, master as they get more experienced. 


"The game doesn't change," Nailor said. "I am trying to get them to understand that their ball is their ball and they have to get used to having possession of it. A lot of the stuff I do with the (Florence High) girls I can modify those things a little bit to do with the younger age groups." 


Nailor also coaches an Under-11 Select Division I boys team and a U-12 State Olympic Development Program team.  


He said many of the lessons he and Eguaoje used Monday and will use the rest of the week will help players form the foundation they will need to become polished players. 


"It is building, and we just lay the foundation from ages 4, 5, and 6," said Nailor, who is Vicksburg, and coaches for Brilla FC in Clinton. "We get up in the game through the age of the game. 


"I hope they had fun. It is about them going out and having fun and creating a love for the game."


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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