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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

SAMANTHA STAWARZ, 9, of Forestburgh runs with the ball in her arms during a game at MLS camp in Livingston Manor. Stawarz wants to be a professional soccer player when she grows up, and she loves to play goalie.

The Real 'Bend
It Like Beckham'

By Jeanne Sager
LIVINGSTON MANOR — August 5, 2003 – Summer can’t get much better than this.
From Wacky Wednesday to joke-telling hour, kids from across the region were having a blast this week at Rotary Park in Livingston Manor learning “football” from the best of the best.
The 91 children were members of the third Major League Soccer (MLS) Camp held in Manor with coaches from universities and soccer teams in England and Trinidad – countries where soccer is to the fans what football and baseball are to American children.
They learned basic soccer skills, from how to kick the ball with the side of your foot rather than the point of the toe, to arcing the ball over the heads of a number of defenders right into the goal – “bending” it like one of England’s most famous former footballers, David Beckham.
With an age range of 5 through 18, the day was split into two camps, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
According to Debbie Hughes, a coach who hails from Liverpool where she’s studying to become a physical education teacher, most of the trainers were hand-picked through the universities to fly over to the states and help out with the MLS camps.
“It’s a challenge,” she said in her lilting accent that drove the children wild. “It’s mainly me acting like a big child meself!”
Hughes got the chance to work with different age groups throughout the week, and she said it was a completely new experience.
“American kids are so much nicer than English kids,” she said.
The coaches were able to fool around with the campers and have a lot more fun than most English kids would accept, she said, and children in the US have a greater appreciation for “sport” and their physical education teachers than the kids in her home country.
According to Linda Fisk, one of the camp organizers, and a mom of one of the campers, the kids’ favorite part of the experience is the coaches.
“They’re fantastic,” she said, especially a coach named Paul who has returned every year to Livingston Manor to work with the kids.
“They form a bond with him,” she noted.
As far as the children were concerned, the whole experience was “awesome.”
“I want to be a professional soccer player,” said 9-year-old Samantha Stawarz of Forestburgh, as she worked a bright yellow pinnie over her head to prepare to square off against other kids her own age for a scrimmage.
Her favorite part of camp?
“You get to do a lot of drills and play a lot of different positions and choose which ones you like,” she said.
And the camp got a round of applause from parents as well.
Russ Johansen of Jeffersonville has watched his son, 5-year-old Leif, come home each night from camp with stars in his eyes.
“This is his introduction to soccer and he just loves it,” Johansen said. “This is probably the best thing that happened to him all summer, and he’s had a lot of good things this summer.”

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