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Soccer Squads Prepare For Competition With Special Clinics
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Explaining the next drill, coach Callum Lester worked with members of the Oakdale U16 girls competitive soccer team this past week, providing the squad with a chance to develop their individual skills and teamwork. Marg Jackson/The Leader - photo by Marg Jackson/The Leader

Riding the wave of World Cup popularity and preparing for its own upcoming competitive season, the Oakdale Youth Soccer League has brought in some topnotch coaching for special clinics.

A handful of competitive teams have been meeting for weeklong camps with instruction tailored to each squad’s needs. OYSL Comp Coordinator Brian Orr said it was a good opportunity for teams to get focused and improve on skills they will need in league and tournament play this season.

“This gives the kids an opportunity to learn how other coaches do things, a little bit different type of instruction,” Orr said.

It is also beneficial for the team coaches, he added, because the guest coach might pick up on team tendencies and can provide an unbiased evaluation of the players.

“It also brings the team together and helps build that camaraderie,” Orr said.

Serving as coach for the OYSL clinics for the various Oakdale United teams is Callum Lester, who hails from Scunthorpe in northeastern England. He has been back and forth between the U.S. and the U.K. for the last five years, he said, and is currently living fulltime in Fremont, where he coaches three Division I youth teams.

Here, he has run clinics for the Under 14 girls competitive team coached by Bob Crossman, the Under 16 comp girls coached by Orr and the Under 12 boys comp team coached by Jaime Martinez.

“Generally I speak to the (head) coach, see what he feels they need to work on, what they need the extra practice on,” Lester explained.

A former player with Scunthorpe United of the Championship League, the center defender also played at the University of Lincoln.

While Lester said many of the drills he works on with the teams are the same as they usually do in practice, they do get to try some new skills and learn from a different teacher.

“It’s always good to hear it from a different voice,” he said of coaching. “The goal is to improve individually and as a team, tactically as well as technically.”

Lester works for UK United Soccer Camps, bringing his knowledge of the game and coaching skills to the U.S. for the clinics around the region.

“They provide you with a work visa, provide you with what you need,” Lester explained of his employer.

Additional teams may also utilize the program, with the U14 and U16 girls already completing their camps. The most recent camp featured the U16 squad, and Lester admitted that the age group is a challenge.

“When they want to, they can,” he said of keeping the girls focused. “It’s a matter of keeping them engaged, they have the natural ability to play.”

The three hours per day of camp provided Lester an opportunity to cover a variety of skills, from passing and trapping to shooting and designing plays.

“I’d like to think the sessions are put together to provide something different than what they’ve been doing,” he said of mixing in some new drills. “It has been good, I’ve gotten to work with people of all different abilities and ages and that will improve me, that will further me in my coaching.”

Lester noted that in the five years he has been coming to the U.S. to run the camps, he has seen improvement in the skills of young players here and pointed to soccer as the fastest growing sport among youngsters up to the age of 14.

“Northern California is the most active soccer playing part of North America,” he said. “It’s good to keep them active, playing serious competitive soccer.”

Orr said local coaches can pick up some new skills as well, along with getting valuable feedback about their coaching styles and routines.

“It really demonstrates to the girls that the game doesn’t change, although we might teach it a little differently,” he said of variations between the U.K. and U.S. coaches. “The majority of girls (U16 players) have really benefited from it and it makes the team stronger, gets them ready for tournament play.”