Kickin’ the ball: Youth soccer camp a big hit in Williamstown

WILLIAMSTOWN – Williamstown girls soccer coach Mike Albertson put together a youth soccer camp three years ago, and the camp has grown in attendance each year.

“This is our third year doing this,” Albertson said Tuesday evening during the second day of the three-day camp at Waybright Youth Soccer Fields. “The first year we had about 45 kids. Last year I think we were around 85 to 90. This year we’re up over 100. It’s great.”

That kind of spike in interest in the sport allowed for the Williamstown High soccer program to go from having one co-ed team to having a boys team and girls team this fall.

“You’re generating interest at a younger level,” Albertson said of the camp. “Hopefully that interest can continue to grow. Now that we have a separate boys and separate girls team at the high school, kids can work and aspire to come into Williamstown High School and play for an all-boys or all-girls team.”

A big part of the camp’s success has been due to Patrick Holguin, the women’s soccer head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Holguin, who coached soccer at Marietta College for 12 seasons before going to WVWC in 2010, has assisted Albertson at camps and clinics since 2001. The two have kept in contact and developed a good working relationship. Albertson’s daughter Megan even plays for Holguin at West Virginia Wesleyan.

“It’s fantastic,” said Albertson. “He was a Division I All-American when he played in college. Any time you can get a coach of his caliber to come and work with the team, it’s just so helpful.

“He keeps it fun, he keeps it loose, but he expects the kids to try, improve and play hard.”

Holguin relishes the opportunity to come back to the area and help out.

“I have a special interest in Williamstown and the Ohio Valley,” he said. “I spent over a decade here working with this area. Coach Mike Albertson and I go way back.

“Just seeing the effort and the amount of time that he spends, it gives me that motivation to help guys like Mike out.”

Holguin and his brother, Kevin, along with several players from the Williamstown High boys and girls teams, worked with campers on several different drills Tuesday. Holguin believes that creating excitement about the game is the main key when working with younger players.

“Enjoying the game,” Holguin said when asked what he wanted the main takeaway to be from his instruction. “Also, learning the most basic skills to be able to play the game more effectively.”

The camp will wrap up today. Looking ahead, Albertson is ready to get things going for the first time with his all-girls squad, which begins practicing Aug. 5.

“The girls are really excited now to have a girls-only team,” Albertson said. “My goal, and I’ve stressed this to the team from the beginning, is that we’re going to be prepared to play when we step onto the field. We may not win every game, but we’re gonna be prepared to play.”