Posted by: sonewjersey | August 1, 2011

SONJ Athletes Learn Soccer Skills from the Pros

Zachary Stroik

Today’s post was written by Zachary Stroik, an SONJ athlete who attended a “Skills and Drills” soccer clinic offered by the Manchester United Football Club and the Manchester United Soccer School. During last Tuesday’s clinic at Montclair University, Manchester United players and coaches led Special Olympics athletes in a series of drills and skill-building exercises that helped to improve technique and show the transformative and unifying power of sport.

This event was part of a growing relationship between Special Olympics and Manchester United, which supports unity through sport amongst all athletes, encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities and promoting acceptance for all.  All of the clinics are sponsored by Aon Corporation.

The Manchester United Soccer Clinic
by Zachary Stroik

Zachary at the clinic

The people in charge of Special Olympics New Jersey knew that the Manchester soccer team was coming right here to the Garden State. They had a spot for me to join in because they knew that I was a soccer player. My mom signed me up for that soccer clinic because she thought that I would be interested in it. I went there and had a blast. It was one heck of a good time. Let me tell you all about the fun I had on that hot summer day.

When I was leaving, I got all my stuff together including my cleats, shin guards, and three drinks to keep me hydrated. It was about an hour-and-a-half/two-hour drive to get to that park-like college campus. When I got there, I sat in the car until it was closer to the time it would start. When I got out of the car, I walked over to the field.

Meeting the players and coaches

When I was at the field, I met some of the players from my Team New Jersey soccer team. Then, I met some of the soccer coaches, who used to be players, from the Manchester soccer team. I chit-chatted with them and noticed they had unique English accents. I chit-chatted and wandered around until it was time to start the practice.

When it was time, I met a lot of the people there from New York. They were soccer players and soccer fans as well. I introduced myself just like I did with those English men. After I was done introducing myself, I gathered with the whole group of many people. The first few drills were the crazy running drills. Some were regular running, some were running sideways, some were running backwards, and some were running forward changing to running backwards. I even did some bunny hops, which you would think is silly for a soccer camp, but the coach taught us how to do it.

Afterwards, I played a game where everyone lined up. When the coach shouted rabbits or rats, I would either run to my left or my right. The next drill was to throw the ball into the air and clap for a certain amount of time and catch it. Then, I took a quick water break.

After the water break, we broke into 6 little teams to practice shooting. Whoever got 5 points first was the winner. The coach who was the ref taught us to celebrate – win or lose. After practicing shooting, we switched soccer stations and practiced dribbling. We learned to stop it with our head, knee, and our bottom. We also learned how to change direction while we were dribbling. We would stop the ball with our foot and step over the ball and face it to change direction. They would see how fast we could do it. Afterwards, we learned how to pass with our hands, and then our feet. They were seeing how many passes we could get done. Then, we took another water break.

Kicking for the yellow team

After our final water break, we got our picture with the people from England and New York. Next, each of the three groups broke into 2 teams and had a scrimmage. In my group that had a scrimmage game, I was the goalie on the yellow team known as team Brazil. I only allowed one goal by team England. Of course, that game didn’t really matter, it was just a scrimmage game.

Then, we did some penalty kicks. Players that scored had to “shop and dance” to their left. But the ones that didn’t score had to “walk their dog” and dance to their right. “Shop and Dance” and “Walk the Dog” are both funny dance moves.

Group Photo

At 5:45, we each got a picture, a keychain, a pin, an armband, a T-shirt, a water bottle, and a soccer ball. I saw the cake that looked like a soccer field with chocolate soccer players and a ball, of course, which the Cake Boss made.

Finally, it was time to go home. My mom’s GPS wasn’t working right and we hit a lot of traffic on the way home. Finally, her GPS was working again. When I got to Newark, the traffic was terrific on the highway heading west.When I got home to Millstone Township, New Jersey, I thought about how wonderful my day was. I’m sure that I became a better soccer player that day now that I learned new soccer moves. I think I’m happy with all the effort I put into the drills that I was taught. I had wonderful dreams about that fun-filled day. 

The soccer cake made by the Cake Boss

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: