LYNN– Like most other coaches, English girls soccer coach Ed McNeil makes the most of his summer offseason by reconnecting with family and enjoying the warm weather. But if there’s one summer event he enjoys the most, aside from the first day of practice, it’s his annual girls soccer camp at Keaney Park.
“It’s gone well,” McNeil said. “We have one more session Wednesday and two more next week. The girls get a good workout in. We practice for about two hours. The groups have been good, great group of kids. I hope to continue doing it.”
The camp is in its fifth running. McNeil used a weeklong format for the previous four editions but this year’s camp is run two days a week for four weeks.
“I think it works better this way,” McNeil said. “I enjoy it. It’s great. I set the nets up, put the lines down, the kids start showing up. I bring the water jug to keep the kids hydrated. It’s a great way to start the day. It really gets me going.”
The camp averages 15 participants each day.
“It’s a great time,” McNeil said. “I wish more kids would come. We’ve opened it up to high school girls too. You have tryouts in a few weeks for the high school teams. This is the perfect way to get in shape for that.”
McNeil focuses on a wide range of basic soccer skills. Participants learn the ins and outs of possession, ball control, shooting with the left foot, corner kicks, throw-ins and one-on-ones through a variety of drills.
“We work on having the ball,” McNeil said. “Some of the Lynn teams don’t have the ball as much as they should. We worked on a ‘keep away’ drill with six girls on two teams. We worked on conditioning, running with the ball and sprinting with the ball.
“We played a variation of golf (Tuesday),” McNeil said. “We picked one of the light posts about 200 yards away because it’s a big field. The girls split into teams and kick the ball toward the post. The team with the least kicks to the post wins. It’s almost like golf.”
While improvement is the No. 1 priority, McNeil does his best to create a fun and enjoyable camp.
“The enthusiasm is there,” McNeil said. “Three of the girls ride their bikes there. They’re the first ones to arrive and they always help me set up the field. They really enjoy it. It’s a great, young group. They wouldn’t wake up at 8 a.m. on hot summer days if they didn’t love the sport. It’s terrific for them and it’s great for me.”
McNeil’s set to begin his 17th season as English’s head coach this fall. The Bulldogs start preseason practices August 22nd and he couldn’t be more excited for the upcoming season.
“I think we’ll be better this season,” McNeil said. “The league’s a much tougher league for us. With the loss of the Greater Boston League teams, we have to play the other NEC bracket. We haven’t played some of those teams in two years. It’s going to be tough. We’re looking for a goalie but our leading scorer, Melissa Zayas, is back. She scored 17 of our 21 goals. We’ll be competitive.”