Friday, May 21, 2010

Heart O'My Town: Jr. Dukes Soccer Academy

"I wanted to do something kinda neat in my own backyard," muses Jake Ouimet, head coach of the Men's Soccer team at Duquesne University and the guiding force behind the Jr. Dukes Soccer Academy in Mt. Lebanon.  Noting the popularity of youth soccer around town and eager to see a competitive camp for kids in grades K-5, he teamed up with the Recreation Department to offer a week-long soccer camp that is much more than Soccer 101.

Along with players and coaches from Duquesne as well as other area coaches, Ouimet starts the day with a big camp warm-up.  Kids are then broken into small groups according to age and gender and put through a series of skills and drills that provide continual learning.  The many rotations stave off boredom and prizes along the way further engage the group.  Everyone gets to watch the college players take the field for a demonstration before the junior set gets its game on with a scrimmage of their own.

"We have a different theme every year," continues Ouimet.  "Last year it was the World Cup and on the last day of camp, kids dressed up in the colors of a particular country and even learned facts about that country.  Everyone from 'Team Ireland' showed up in green goggles!"  The kids also benefit from playing with those with whom they're most familiar.  "At this age, girls are more comfortable playing with girls and the same goes for boys," says Ouimet.  "It's good for them, too.  In a large camp where skill level can vary widely, being grouped according to age and sex is the great equalizer."

As the coach of a Division I program, Ouimet gets to see the best of the best during the course of the season and his very competitive squad toured Europe for a series of games two years ago.  At home, he provide tips to his two daughers, ages 10 and 7.

So who is the coach picking in this summer's World Cup?  "Spain might win it," says Ouimet.  "They won the European championship and they could be the team this year.  But I'll still be rooting for the U.S."

Space is still available for this summer's camp on June 14-17.  Register online here.