The Barton Community College youth soccer camp concluded its fifth straight year on Thursday.
What sets this camp apart from past years is that it was held on the new Barton soccer field, which was finished last spring. The field will be christened in a ceremony on the weekend of Aug. 26-27.
Barton head men’s soccer coach Oliver Twelvetrees said that something else set this camp apart as well.
“I think it’s been the most fun because we had the largest number of elementary kids,” Twelvetrees said. “Basically we had the whole soccer population of Riley (Elementary School in Great Bend) out here. They’re the kids that like the camp the most.
“Those kids between eight and 13, they just have a fantastic time out here.”
The heat has been a constant factor of the camp. Twelvetrees said that it got as hot as 120 degrees on the field on Monday and Tuesday.
However, with the new field being closer to Kirkman Activity Center, the camp was able to move inside to beat the heat.
“I like it,” Twelvetrees said. “It’s a true surface. So to learn the game, it takes away the elements. It takes away the bounce. It does get hot, but I like it. It is close to the building, so we were able to go inside a couple of days when it got hot. We wouldn’t have been able to do that on the grass field.”
Twelvetrees ran the camp with the help of Fort Hays State University assistant coach Donovan Dowling.
“He would have been my assistant coach if I had taken the job at Fort Hays State,” Twelvetrees said. “He’s good with the kids, and it is good for the high school kids to work with a college-level coach.”
Twelvetrees has been with Barton for six years now and has run this camp the last five.
“Probably playing against the kids,” Twelvetrees said of his favorite part of camp. “At the end of the camp, when we play the coaches against the kids. The kids really get into it. That’s definitely the favorite.
“And when you see the kids develop. When they get better throughout the week.”
The soccer camp, which began on Monday, featured Twelvetrees, Dowling and past and present soccer players from Barton coaching kids ranging from four years old to 18. The coaches teach the kids fundamentals of the game.
“There is a lot of talent and passion for the game among the young kids in Great Bend,” Twelvetrees said. “You see them all getting autographs from the players and that shows that they can be heroes for the kids, which is what it is all about.”
A majority of the young kids came from Riley Elementary School, brought to the camp by Jean Cavanaugh, who has volunteered with the school for 12 years.
“The registration isn’t like any other camp,” Twelvetrees said. “We have about 20 kids who will pre-register and then basically, we’ll go pick up a load of kids from Riley every morning. We don’t know how many will show up and Jean will just pay a little bit for each kids. That’s how it works.”
Cavanaugh has been helping transport local children to the soccer camp for a few years.
“I just think that these kids just play a lot of soccer,” Cavanaugh said. “I volunteer down there to read, so I get to know these kids from about third grade on. Some of them go on to play soccer until they’re juniors in college and that’s good to think they were able to do something with their lives.
“I just enjoy seeing these kids coming out here and having a good time and getting along with each other.”