Kids ‘kick it around’ with McNiel and Viking stars

Balls were flying everywhere. Kids were joking around. And Bryan McNiel was loving every minute of it.

Balls were flying everywhere. Kids were joking around. And Bryan McNiel was loving every minute of it.

The longtime soccer player and Inglemoor High girls head coach set up shop last week on the Viking field for his fourth annual week-long summer camp. About 50 boys and girls ages 7-14 showed up last Wednesday and enjoyed a few hours of fun in the sun.

None of them went away dehydrated or without learning some new skills.

“If I score, I gotta get some water. So come on!” shouted one camper during a small-field scrimmage.

McNiel smiled at the kids’ enthusiasm in rushing the water hose during a break.

“It’s nice weather, it’s been toasty,” he said. “Yeah, lots of water breaks.”

But lots of soccer playing, as well.

During a one-on-one drill in which one player was a defender and the other took on an offensive role, McNiel encouraged the campers to stay on their toes and keep the pressure on their opponent.

“Really work on your defense, staying low and stopping them,” he said. “Offensive people, be quick, be quick … put some moves on.”

McNiel, who was joined last Wednesday by his 7-year-old daughter, Maddi, said the purpose of the camp is to “kick it around” in the summer. However, he added that he’s doing some promotional work, as well.

“The camp gives attention to the Inglemoor Viking program. It gets the kids involved and shows a sense of community,” he said.

Justin Busby, 11, attended the camp for the first time and said it was challenging playing against the other kids, and satisfying to pick up points for a weekly prize by scoring goals.

Mom Peggy Busby said the camp keeps her son active during the summer and he becomes familiar with Inglemoor, the school he’ll be attending in the future. Peggy also noted that McNiel has a good reputation as a soccer coach and academic counselor.

Friends Deven Blaser and Ilsa Juhliln, both 13, have been playing soccer for a combined 13 years and have picked up some skills from McNiel.

“I’ve gotten a lot more confident in my play because I’m playing against kids at different levels,” Juhlin said.

Added Blaser: “I’m learning how to be more aggressive and strong.”

Even the older kids, like coaches Anne and Kate Lilly, enhance their appreciation for soccer at the camp.

“The No. 1 goal is to have fun and to keep them coming back to play soccer,” said Kate, an Inglemoor graduate who will play for Chapman University in Orange, Calif., next year.

Added Anne, an Inglemoor senior-to-be: “I think it’s important for them to get interested in the sport at a young age. They’re doing drills that we actually do. But we also like to show them (through the non-competitive games) that soccer is fun, and not always serious.”