During our June family reunion trip to Disney my youngest got the chance to practice her love of soccer at Disney's Soccer Academy! Disney does four, four day session soccer camps for kids ages 6-18. Although we were arriving in the evening of the 3rd day of session one, my daughter was still able to test her ball skills on the fields of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Hess Fields for the last day of session one.
|Getting ahead of myself by about 6 hours|
and relieving the big surprise up front...
at the end of day four Mickey came out to join the campers on the fields!
The staff was great. Each kid was set up with a Disney Soccer Academy shirt and a Puma soccer ball. The staff were all clearly marked in easy to identify shirts of their own.
|Glen Buckley is the on field manager. I could not resit a pic...classy shirts , smiles and all. He kept the kids organized and motivated when they were in large groups. In total there were around 75 campers for session one.|
The kids were all divided up based on their age. My daughter was in the second group. They made sure the kids had plenty of water breaks and boy did the kids run for it when they were announced!
They had about 2.5 hours in the morning to work on ball skills. The skill of the day was short passes.
They also had time to meet new friends. I was somewhat concerned that my kid was entering an established camp social situation on the final day, but sports bring people together!
A T-shirt and ball shot! They all got one of each! Mine lived in her shirt for the rest of the trip! She even wore it at the water parks as a rash guard. It's Disney...it's soccer...wear it proud!
In addition to a coach for each age group the camp always has one professional soccer player on hand to interact with and inspire the kids. Aaron Hughes was on hand for Session 1. When we arrived we were taken down to the academy's trailer to get the correct shirt size and we had a chance to chat with Aaron before the day really began. Turns out he has two daughters who much prefer ballet to soccer. He was amazing with the kids, very accessible and engaged, as you might expect for a dad with kids there age.
|That is Aaron with the yellow pinnie at his waist. They were playing a game of capture the pinnie.|
The kids were planing really well together, but they really got into it when a boys vs. girls game of capture the pinnie was announced. The girls got Aaron on their side!
You should know that Disney contracts the Soccer Academy out to Midwest Soccer Academy out of Michigan. Tony Shard is in charge of the operation and he was wonderful in helping to make this one day camp experience possible for my daughter. I was somewhat concerned like I said above, about her jumping in on the final day, but he assured me that other kids attend for less than the full four days usually due to their families park schedule. There were quite a few international campers in my daughters group.
Relaxing after lunch, before heading out to the fields for more. Lunch is included in the camp experience. I did send snacks along with her and of course water, but I don't think she ate the snacks and they had plenty of water and cups for the campers at the fields edge.
The kids had a Q&A session with Aaron Hughes after lunch. The questions went something like this:
How old were you when you started playing soccer? 6 or 7
Why did you start playing soccer? Because that is what kids do back home.
How many red cards have you received? I am pretty sure the answer was zero.
In the afternoon the groups showed off their skills for each other. Here they are trying to knock the balls off the cones.
The older kids did speed passing drilled and Aaron joined the groups.
Then it was Mickey time. Mickey went to each group and spent some time with them on the field and then gathered with the campers for group shots.
Mickey jumped right into the game helping the goalie out on defense. This was a highlight of the who experience. She actually got to play soccer with Mickey!!!
And then take a bunch of pictures. Group 2s coach was Tom Skeath. He kept the kids going in a very relaxed way which was welcome especially given the June heat in Florida.
At the end of the day the campers received certificates and were able to get Aaron's signature. Instead of doing an autograph book this trip we went with an autograph mini soccer ball! I highly recommend branching away from the books. She can have the ball out in her room on display with there other soccer mementos.
Then it was time for individual shots with Mickey!
There is always time for a hug with Mickey! She was so happy and I know this experience is one that she will remember for a very long time. There is a good chance it will be her top Disney memory for a very long time!
For more information check out http://espnwwos.disney.go.com/events/soccer/superstar-soccer-academy-week1/ and www.midwestsoccer.net.