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Kids get their kicks at camp

The game is freeze tag, but 2-year-olds are actually learning the concept of being honest.

At Soccer Shots, a region-wide sports camp for 2- to 8-year-olds based in Beaverton, kids learn footwork and fitness, but are also challenged mentally.

Camp counselors in Hillsboro, for example, ask questions such as: who do they need to be honest with?

“Then when we are playing freeze tag, if they are tagged, they know they need to tell the truth or the game doesn’t work as well for everyone,” said Joel Newman, owner and director of Soccer Shots. “Whether they go on to play soccer or not, that’s an experience they take with them.”

Another priority is fun.

“When it’s fun, they are the ones choosing a healthy, active lifestyle,” said Newman.

Founded by two retired professional soccer players, the camp caters to three different age groups and their skill levels. The “mini program” has 2- and 3-year-olds learning fundamental soccer skills, such as dribbling and the basic rules. There’s also a good dose of songs and games.

“To not use your hands is a big accomplishment for that group,” Newman laughed.

The “classic” group has 3- to 5-year-olds passing and shooting the ball, but also understanding concepts such as teamwork and respect, while the “premier” team is more competitive with children 5 to 8 focusing on sportsmanship and fitness through games. Newman added that the premier group gets deeper into the concepts of being a teammate.

“We create coachable players,” explained Newman. “No matter what you play, it’ll help in the long run.”

There are various Soccer Shots camps in the Hillsboro area. Shute Park hosts a camp July 29 to Aug. 2, but other camps run through Aug. 17. Camps at Magnolia Park and Reedville Creek Park run through Aug. 18. Rood Bridge Park’s camps run through Aug. 20. Learning Tree and Learning Years Day School are camps running through Aug. 29.

“Child development is at work, and the vehicle we use for that is soccer,” said Newman.

The Portland branch of Soccer Shots is only 33 months old, younger than most of its players, but grew to one of the largest Soccer Shots franchises in the nation. This summer, about 1,150 kids participated all over the metro area. Last year, there were only 525 kids. In the fall, Newman expects 1,500 or more.

“We want to start a love affair with soccer for these kids,” said Newman.

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