English soccer coach McNeil teaches the game at annual camp

English girls soccer coach Ed McNeil organizes a camp each summer. (Item File Photo)

LYNN — When Lynn English girls soccer coach Ed McNeil started his youth soccer camp three summers ago he wanted to provide a chance for girls of all levels to learn and practice the sport.

“I’m very enthusiastic about the sport, it’s a great sport because you can’t stand still, you’re always moving around,” McNeil said. “Once they start playing they really like it.”

Now in its third year, the week-long camp, which is being held this week at English High, has drawn a variety of athletes from age 10 to 17. The camp runs through Friday. 

“Just yesterday we had a player who is a captain in high school and another girl who had never played the sport before,” McNeil said. “If a beginner and a captain can both enjoy it, it must be good.”

However, McNeil would be the first to admit that this year’s camp numbers have been less than ideal.

“We’re a little low on attendance this year, I think I picked a bad week for vacations,” McNeil said. “It seems like everyone in the city of Lynn is on a vacation right now but it’s still going well.”

The lower numbers may be disappointing but they provide a silver lining when it comes to time spent coaching each athlete.

“I’ll tell you, the individual instruction has been terrific,” McNeil said. “The kids are getting a lot of one-on-one time, and far more shots and more passing as well.

“We are very patient with everyone,” McNeil said. “It’s good stuff to see all the different skill levels improving.”

During the camp McNeil, who has been helped by some of his alumni and college players throughout the week, stresses several areas he likes to see attendees improve in.

“We are working on a couple of different things including ball control, holding onto the ball and running with it and not losing speed,” McNeil said.

“One thing I’ve stressed is speed with the ball,” McNeil added. “It can be surprising how much speed people lose while controlling a ball. We run a lot of drills sprinting with the ball and a lot of passing drills.”

Athletes also spend time focusing on shooting with both their right and left foot.

“Most of the soccer players we see can’t even kick with their left foot,” McNeil said. “We’ve been working on all types of shooting throughout the week.”

While learning and perfecting skills is always the drive for any camp, it wouldn’t be possible if athletes couldn’t afford the cost to attend. At $10 a day, McNeil is aiming to provide an affordable camp for all types of skill levels.

“I look at a lot of camps around and they basically do the same thing for a lot more money,” McNeil said. “I’ve had a few friends that say I should charge more but I’m not in it for the money.”

What brings McNeil down to the field this week is a passion to see young athletes improve at a game he has coached for many years at both the high school and youth levels.

“I think to see kids improve at any level is my motivation, it’s amazing,” McNeil said. “Our Lynn English team may not be the most winning team but we have fun and try to play the game right. That’s what we are teaching here.”

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