Region’s best soccer players in Mitchell for elite campThe students at this week’s South Dakota Olympic Development Program’s state soccer camp aren’t your ordinary summer campers. The 90-plus kids — ages 10-18 — that took over the new Pepsi Cola Soccer Complex Tuesday afternoon aren’t here to pass the time before school starts. And they aren’t here because of a lack of options elsewhere. The kids at this camp have a much better reason to be taking time out from their summer vacation.
By: Travis Mester, The Daily Republic
The students at this week’s South Dakota Olympic Development Program’s state soccer camp aren’t your ordinary summer campers.
The 90-plus kids — ages 10-18 — that took over the new Pepsi Cola Soccer Complex Tuesday afternoon aren’t here to pass the time before school starts. And they aren’t here because of a lack of options elsewhere.
The kids at this camp have a much better reason to be taking time out from their summer vacation.
These elite soccer players will have the opportunity in the coming years to represent their state, region and country in soccer competitions across the United States and beyond.
“What this state camp is for is to try and give the best players we can find the opportunity to showcase their skills and compete with the best we have to offer,” South Dakota Director of Coaching Brian Pitts said.
The ODP state camp began Tuesday and runs through Thursday afternoon. It is being hosted by Dakota Wesleyan University and training sessions are taking place at the new soccer complex, which opened in April.
The ODP is a national program designed to identify and develop talented, committed youth soccer players. It provides those players the opportunity to test their skills against other players around their state before taking their game to the regional level and, ultimately, the national level.
The vast majority of the campers in town this week had previously been identified by Pitts and his staff during tryouts in September. The players have since trained with their individual age groups and have been brought back together this week for one last group session.
“Basically, the kids are identified at the state level, then at the regional level, then at the national level,” said Pitts, who grew up in Rapid City. “There are some groups where we still have a few decisions to make. And there are a few kids that have come here from North Dakota that we haven’t seen yet, so we may be able to take a few more in some age groups.”
Regional camps begin July 6 when boys’ teams from Region 2 — of which South Dakota, and the rest of the Midwest, is a part of — will travel to Overland Park, Kan. Girls’ teams will head to DeKalb, Ill., for regional camps. There are 14 states in Region 2 and four regions in the country. Teams from every state, in each age group, compete at regional camps and players are then picked to be on the regional teams. Then, from the four region teams, players in each age group are selected for the national team.
At this week’s camp, players will take part in training sessions, games and will also review game film from World Cup matches from the past few weeks. Pitts said he will hold review sessions of the United States vs. Algeria match from the group stage, along with the Brazil vs. Chile match from the Round of 16.
“Those games will really show the different styles of play,” Pitts said. “Also, there’s a big difference between the technical ability of a U.S. or Algerian player and the Brazilians or the Chileans; totally different styles of soccer.”
The state camp also is a good opportunity for coaches to get a look at the state’s top up-and-coming talent, as evidenced by the collegiate coaches found on the ODP’s staff.
DWU men’s soccer coach Jeremy Tosaya and Northern State University women’s coach Steve Kehm were both helping with training sessions Tuesday.
“This is a really big camp for us to be hosting,” said Tosaya, who is entering his second season at DWU. “I think it’s really neat that they let us bid for it this year, especially with the new soccer complex. It’s a great opportunity.”
Last year the camp was in Sioux Falls, and Pitts said next year they would like to take it elsewhere in the state to spark even more interest.
Tosaya has been working with the ODP for the past two years since taking the job at DWU. He said he can tell the difference between the state camp and other summer soccer camps.
“The intensity and concentration at this camp, especially with the older kids, is higher, I think,” he said. “They know they’re fighting for a spot. They know there are opportunities for them at the next level and beyond coming out of this camp.”