Mara Shelton remembers attending Meridian Community College’s youth soccer camp when she was just a child.

After a standout career at Neshoba Central, Shelton is a rising sophomore on MCC’s women’s soccer program. Being a player for the Lady Eagles allowed her the chance to be a counselor at this week’s youth camp, which began Tuesday, and brought back some memories of when she was still a fledgling soccer player.

“I had a lot of fun,” Shelton said.

Being a counselor is a bit of a different role for Shelton, but the midfielder/striker said it’s one she enjoys.

“It gives you a chance to be 1-on-1 with the kids and teach them how you were taught,” Shelton explained. “I love it. It’s unpredictable at times, but it’s fun.”

Originally scheduled for Monday-Wednesday, the MCC youth soccer camp was postponed until Tuesday and will run through Thursday, with campers participating from 9 a.m. until noon each day. MCC head soccer coach Mike Smith said the focus of the youth camp was teaching young boys and girls the techniques of the game like passing, dribbling and shooting so they can move on to more advanced aspects when they are older.

“These are things that you have to be able to do once you get to high school to be able to do all of the tactical stuff,” Smith said. “You’re not going to be able to do the tactical stuff if you can’t do these simple technical abilities.”

The camp teaches various soccer techniques by incorporating them into games like red light, green light, where campers are forced to dribble when a counselor says “green light,” slow down when a counselor says “yellow light” or stop when they say “red light.” There was also a station where campers got to compete against each other in a mini soccer match. All of it is designed to make the learning process as fun as possible.

“We do a lot of fun games, but those games kind of bring out some of the soccer techniques that you need,” Smith said. “(A lot of them are) first timers, and they’re really young, so we want to make it as fun as possible so they want to continue to come to the camp and continue to play soccer.”

Ava Devuono is a first-time camper who said she enjoyed getting exposed to soccer through the various games the camp had to offer. Her favorite game was the one where she had to hop to the middle of one of the stations and play rock, paper, scissors with another camper assigned to the middle.

“I don’t win all the time, but it’s a really fun game,” Devuono said.

Max Myers enjoys the same game as Devuono, and he also said he’s taken away important lessons from the camp, such as being able to control the ball and keep it below the waist.

“We learn not to kick it up high, because the other person could get it and score,” Myers explained.

Lillian Wilson is a first-time camper who said she enjoys the red light, green light game the most due to it stressing the skill of controlling the ball.

“You can dribble, and I like dribbling,” Wilson said. 

She even got a chance to make a shot on goal in the mini soccer game station.

“I shot the ball, and it touched the pole and bounced off,” Wilson recalled.

TJ Olaleye came to the camp for the second straight year Tuesday and was hopeful his favorite game from the previous year’s camp will make its way to this year’s camp.

“There was a game where you were the shark and had to kick the ball away from other people, but we haven’t played it this year (yet),” Olaleye said.

Smith said he’s hopeful the three-day camp will spark an interest in soccer that remains with the children beyond Thursday.

“It gets everyone involved and gets them out here on campus and grows the sport here in Meridian and the surrounding areas, and that’s what we want to do,” Smith said. “We want to grow it as much as possible.”

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