When you win a pair of Sac-Joaquin Section titles and a host of Valley Oak League championships, it is pretty safe to say that winning carries some weight and that was the mindset and approach for the recent McNeill’s Premier Soccer Camps, hosted in Oakdale July 20 through 22.
Former Oakdale High soccer standout Mike McNeill rolled out the welcome mats for Oakdale’s next generation of soccer stars during the second running of his premier soccer camp designed to help the competitive youth soccer player elevate his game to the next level.
McNeill and a handful of his playing colleagues over the years, as well as coaching influences, took part in the three day camp coaching and teaching the Oakdale youth soccer players what exactly it will take to continue on to the high school and collegiate levels.
McNeill helped players in various stages of the game, yet is comfortable that the competitive scene for Oakdale soccer is going to be in good shape.
“I think that Oakdale youth soccer has come a long way in the past two to three years,” McNeill said. “Before when I was playing there wasn’t even a competitive to team to play with. They actually have more teams now than I can ever remember.”
McNeill, who put together an impressive run during his tenure as a Mustang, puts a lot of emphasis during his camp time on making the kids work hard. His career coincided with that of Oakdale standouts Ernesto Carranza and Manuel Verduzco, and combined, they demanded the effort from teammates that resulted in one of Oakdale’s more impressive athletic runs in school history.
McNeill’s love for the game is evident when he works with the youngsters and his sheer appreciation for and knowledge of the game is proof enough to demand each camper’s undivided attention.
“The part I love most is seeing the kids work hard,” McNeill said on day two of the camp. “I like to see that I can motivate kids. It’s not all about teaching the kids how to play the game; it’s more about getting them to love the game and wanting to learn.
“Anyone can get out there and show them how to kick a ball right, it’s about getting them to want to learn.”
McNeill has surrounded himself with a staff of standouts when it comes to the game of soccer. His staff of Nick Murphy, Gustavo Duran and Efrain Junior Burgos all have seen tremendous success in the collegiate and professional ranks, with Burgos currently holding a roster spot for the San Jose Earthquakes in Major League Soccer.
Duran and McNeill have history that dates back nearly a dozen years and his impact on McNeill is something that the San Francisco State University-bound McNeill will always cherish.
“Gustavo has been my trainer since I was 11 or 12 years old,” McNeill said. “He has just been huge for me. We would literally train three nights a week for three to four hours. He taught me pretty much everything I know about soccer.
“All of the kids look up to him because I tell them he is the guy that taught me everything; he has a lot to teach.”
The camps are as intense, if not more than, some of the high school programs, but it’s with a purpose. Making the team and excelling is a fine line and the kids who want to excel simply have to put in the work.
“When you see the competitive players who are coming out of high school they are the studs,” McNeill said. “The players who are not playing competitive are the players who are just filling the roster up … the competitive soccer leagues really are what makes the high school team what it is.”