The United Futbol Academy summer camp kicked off Monday morning at Rock Creek Park with the biggest group of participants the camp has seen.
Forty-three kids from all over north Georgia were ready to get on the field to learn the fundamentals of recreational soccer.
“Recreational soccer is for fun,” said UFA Mountains Branch Director William Mostellar. “Anybody who wants to play is given the opportunity to play. We take as many players as we have field space and volunteer coaches to accommodate.”
UFA Mountains, an offshoot of United Futbol Academy, services the north Georgia communities of Dawson, Fannin, Lumpkin, Pickens and Townes counties. The soccer club has contracts with each county stating that they are the soccer providers for the communities.
The United Futbol Academy was established in 2010 and made its way to Dawson County in 2011 and has remained the county’s soccer program for seven years.
Mostellar, a lifelong soccer player, participated in YMCA leagues, high school teams and even the Air Force’s practice camp throughout his life and helmed the soccer program in Big Canoe where his children played.
“We’ve lived up here since 2000. We have five kids and our kids started playing soccer and because we’re right there on that Dawson-Pickens line, we had to travel up to 80 miles for our kids to play at the competitive level that they needed,” Mostellar said. “I got to thinking there has to be a better way.”
And so UFA Mountains was born as a way to provide recreational and academy and select soccer programs across rural north Georgia.
Currently there are 800 recreational players and 200 academy and select competitive players in the division.
This week’s camp has been a way for UFA to get out in the community and help kids of all ages develop their soccer skills.
“You can take a player who may not be the best athlete but he sees the game very well and has very good technique and he can be an excellent player,” Mostellar said. “You can take a very good athlete who may not see the game as well who doesn’t have the best technique but he can also be an outstanding player because it’s not all about genetics. It’s about the technical ability – the passing, the receiving, the dribbling – the physical and the mental aspect of it.”
Kids focused on the basic elements most important to the game: dribbling, passing, receiving and trapping the ball and shooting. Most importantly, they had fun as they ran around the field kicking the ball.
From simple warmups to focusing on individual skills to scrimmage games at the end of each day, the campers were able to develop important personal skills and learn the importance of teamwork.
“It’s open to everybody and it’s an outstanding opportunity to learn and to interact,” Mostellar said. “It’s a great teambuilding sport because everybody gets the ball. Everybody gets the opportunity to make decisions on the field.”
The campers, ranging from four to 13 years old, also learned that they can become great players through hard work and passion, and that the size of the player doesn’t matter in soccer.“One of the things that I love about soccer is that you don’t have to be the biggest guy in the world to play - the best player in the world, (Lionel) Messi, is my size only a lot more muscular than I am - because everybody is the same height when the ball’s on the ground,” Mostellar said.