Each summer the TMC men’s soccer coach Jim Rickard and about 10 to 12 selected players from the men’s and women’s soccer teams come together to run two five-day soccer camps for kids 14 and younger. Campers arrive each day at 8 a.m. and then spend seven hours doing soccer drills, tactics, lessons and scrimmages. Aside from the sport components, they receive Bible time, a lunch meal in the cafeteria and an hour of swimming at the Hotchkiss dorm pool.
“Our camps started in 1987, my sophomore year of college,” Rickard said, “Why do we do camps? One reason is to get the community kids on campus. I would say 30% are Christian kids from the local churches and about 70% are unchurched kids. It’s a way to expose the community to The Master’s College and who we are. That’s why we take time each day of camp to have Bible time where we talk about the gospel with them.”
In addition to the ministry opportunities, summer camps such as the soccer camp give the college players a way to earn money during the summer in a coaching position.
“What is unique about our camp is that we have our college players training the kids and so not only do the kids have the chance to talk about soccer knowledge and skills but they are getting to interact with our players and seeing the college level athlete in a Christian,” Rickard said.
Natatsha Coyle, a senior on the women’s team, has experienced coaching at four camps with Rickard. She started working even before her freshman year.
“It was so neat. I got to meet a ton of people from the guys and girls programs and get familiar with the school before I came in,” Coyle said, “After working the first camp I definitely looked forward to each summer because of the camps. It was a lot of hard work dealing with so many kids but it’s really rewarding in a lot of senses. The younger girls who come to participate really look up to us as older athlete’s and women. It’s really fun for them to see and meet us college girls as well as provide examples for them with what they could be and what they can do in the aspects of improving their skills but also just having an absolute blast with the sport.”
Rickard has seen college players grow as they coach. They learn valuable lessons by having a plan each day for training and teaching tactics and technicalities.
“The best part is just seeing the college players interacting with young people and sharing their enthusiasm for the game of soccer,” Rickard said. “The camp provides our college players with a professional interaction to a coaching level. It’s fun and I hope to see most of them at one point coaching after college.”
As there is a coach-to-college-player interaction there is also a college-player-to-camper interaction.
“My favorite memory from the camps was seeing how quickly the kids grew close to each of us,”Coyle said, “By the end of the week at pool time they would start to chant each of our names getting us to jump in the freezing cold pool…It’s so cool how something like that can be the highlight of their week.”
Rickard was a coach for the summer soccer camps when he played for the men’s team. Sitting on one of the shelves in his office is a soccer ball that was given back to him from a former camper at the time, who had received the “player of the camp week” award. This ball is covered with faded autographs by Rickard and his college teammates.
“It was super cool that he had kept it and gave it back to me 17 years later.” Rickard said.
By Kinley Kane