On July 10, 2005, Blair Blazers packed their bags and headed off to soccer camp at St. Mary's college in Southern Maryland. The camp, which consists of about 200 campers, is run by St Mary's men's head coach, Herb Gainey, and assistant coach Rich Edgar.
The camp, designed to teach players new techniques, has been hosting the Blair's boys' and girls' soccer teams for years. Although attending the camp is not a requirement for playing on the soccer team, it is considered an important part of showing commitment and making the school team in the fall. The Blair girls' varsity coach, Bob Gibb, is also a trainer at the camp but does not coach the girls when at St. Mary's.
A majority of the camp counselors attend St. Mary's and play for the St. Mary's Seahawks soccer team (a division III team). The trainers, who teach new skills and techniques, and coach games, come to camp from all over the world.
In previous years, Blair athletes used the opportunity to bond with their incoming teammates and practice as a team before preseason. This year, the camp changed to accommodate the players according to their skill level, splitting up the Blair team for morning and afternoon sessions but bringing them together for games during night sessions.
The Blair girls' team was split into two groups, both of which were mixed in with other high school students from the region, including athletes from Chopticon High School, Northern High School and Patuxent High School. One group was coached by John Carberry, and the other by Jamie Webster, who also coached the Blair team at night during the games.
The boys' team did the same: Almost half the boys were coached by Jack Edwards, while the other half was coached by Alun "Taffy" Oliver. Although the separation had its disadvantages, most saw it as a positive change. "I think it allowed people to learn at their own level, and then when we brought the team all together, everyone had had the same training but they got to learn it at their own pace," said senior Adam MacLeod, prospective captain for Blair next year.
The future captains of the girls' varsity team, seniors Maddie Driskill and Sarah Rumbaugh, attended, meeting new players and mixing them in with returning players for what they hope will be a successful fall season. Said Driskill, "It's important to go to camp because it introduces the returning varsity players to the incoming varsity players and it also creates an atmosphere outside of school where you can focus on soccer; but is also fun and exciting, and gives the players a time to bond."
MacLeod also felt that the soccer camp was a good way to introduce the newer varsity players to the old ones. "I think it was helpful to have us all play together so that we get used to playing with each other," he said. "I know that most of us played together on the junior varsity, and it was a good chance for us to play together at a higher level. "
Although most of the team had few complaints, some players found that there were parts of the camp that needed to be improved. Junior Jesse Ruf, for example, found that the meal times were too soon before and after soccer sessions. "The meal times were terrible; you couldn't eat your fill because you had to play soccer an hour after you ate." Another complaint was that the evaluation sheets, meant to assess each player at the end of the week, were poorly filled out by the trainers because they failed to put much effort into writing the evaluations.
Despite the complaints, most participants felt that the camp not only did an excellent job of teaching new techniques and promoting playing on a higher level but also got the players fit for the upcoming season. The other prospective Blair boys' captain, Mac Kpadeh, said, "I wasn't really in shape before I went to camp, but I'm much more in shape now than I was before."
The players all returned on Thursday, July 14, geared up for the new season, which starts August 15.
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