For many of Scotland’s youth, one of two sports usually takes center stage when camps and teams begin to form: Football and baseball. Year-long local leagues and clinics offer fans of either sport numerous opportunities to stay in shape, master the fundamentals and simply get better. And it all translates onto the field, as the Scotland football and baseball programs have earned a championship-caliber reputation throughout North Carolina.
As the host of the Scotland County Parks and Recreation summer camps, Fighting Scots head soccer coach of 19 years Colin McDavid seeks to establish a third prominent sport in the surrounding counties, not just in Scotland. And hosting local soccer fans up to age 13, McDavid’s camp is just one tool he hopes to utilize going forward.
“If you look at powerhouse programs like Pinecrest, you see that they’re on top because their local community supports lots of programs that teaches kids fundamentals,” said McDavid, who is both the boy’s and girl’s varsity soccer coach at Scotland. “Many kids that have joined my teams in the past often never played soccer before, and my dream is to localize the sport so any kid can play at any time.”
Though they may be rivals on the field, McDavid and Richmond head soccer coach Bennie Howard have been friends for more than 20 years. Each year they team up to give young soccer fans the chance to learn the game, and this year was no different. In addition to Howard, Richmond JV soccer coach Rebekah Smith was on-hand this past week to lend her tutelage to the 53 players of various ages who participated in the camp, which took place at the James L. Morgan complex.
“We’ve had some epic games against each other over the years, that’s for sure,” Howard said. “But the bottom line is, we both want to promote and teach the game of soccer to as many kids as possible. It’s our passion and we want to continue doing it.”
McDavid’s Fort Bragg Arsenal (an adult league he currently plays for) teammate and former professional Alfonso Peraza also lent a hand to the camp, and so did Fighting Scots’ goalkeeper Destinee Grove. Entering her senior season at Scotland High School, Grove has dedicated herself fully to helping broaden the appeal of soccer in the area, and will be a referee for the Scotland County Parks and Recreation youth league when it begins this fall.
For Grove, it all dates back to her days playing youth soccer for Scotland Parks and Recreation, and the memories which surround a photo that she sees on a regular basis.
“My grandma has a big team photo of mine blown up that always reminds me of playing soccer for Parks and Rec,” said Grove, who was called “Coach Grove” all week by the children in attendance. “It’s inspiring to be put in a position where children look up to you as an older soccer player, and I love being someone that could possibly influence these kids to continue playing.”
“They just followed her everywhere and studied her every move,” said McDavid of Grove. “Destinee is one of my top players, and hopefully seeing and interacting with her will help us see a few of these kids in the stands when the soccer season begins.”
On the last day of his soccer camp, McDavid had a surprise in store for his kids. On hand to speak with the kids and offer his insight was Geoffrey N’goran, a former professional player who has toured Europe with several ballclubs and most notably was a part of of the 2006 Ivory Coast World Cup team. In 1992, N’goran was also a member of the Ivory Coast squad that won the African Cup of Nations championship, the biggest tournament of its type in Africa.
Now that he’s in the area, N’goran sees himself being a part of all the surrounding counties’ growth in the soccer realm.
“I’ve studied the market in this area, and there’s definitely a need and potential for long-term youth soccer camps and leagues,” said N’goran, who has aspirations of starting a local youth soccer club. In 2010, N’Goran also began the ‘Around the World’ soccer club in Savannah, Georgia.
“Soccer isn’t the number one sport in the United States, so it’s good for kids to see someone like me that understands and can teach the beauty of a game that is loved all throughout the world,” he said.