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Competitive Soccer Skills Camp Brings Earthquakes To Riverbank
A co-ed group was working on basic soccer fundamentals, including ball control and passing, at the Riverbank Sports Complex with Coach Neko Young. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

The Earthquakes-East Valley Futbol Club hit the green grass at the Riverbank Sports Complex over a couple of days during the past week with a group of youth participants learning the game of soccer. There were two different training sessions taking place last week. One group was boys and girls with Technical Director Neko Young and the other was an all-girl session with college coach Alexia Poon.

“We are trying to bring competitive soccer to Riverbank,” said Young. “There is a great talent out here but they may have never been exposed to an opportunity like this. But again, another great opportunity for a lot of the Riverbank kids, especially around the local area to have a competitive place to play.”

In his fifth year with the futbol (soccer) club, Young has been playing or coaching the game for several years. He was originally from Anchorage, Alaska and then played soccer at a college in Oregon. Young spent his second year at Shasta College and then transitioned to Cal State Stanislaus for his last two years and then began as an assistant coach with the club.

Having a group of co-ed students with their feet moving in a high intensity workout on Wednesday was Young’s way of getting the training session going.

“It is a great opportunity for kids during the summer,” he explained. “The difference from my camp to others is the coaching. I take pride in our club and our camps. High quality coaches around high quality players are what we are striving for as a club.”

The students were learning the fundamentals, touches on the ball and the older students were learning more tactical skills.

On the other side of the field was an all-girl soccer training session instructed by Poon, who is the head soccer coach for Arizona Western College. Playing soccer all her life, she never considered coaching until after she graduated Cal State Stanislaus in 2013. Poon stayed a season and was an assistant coach for the Warriors until 2014. She then spent two and a half years coaching at San Joaquin Delta College and then moved to Arizona to take on the head coaching job at Arizona Western.

“So I have only been coaching for about four years,” added Poon. “I did it for fun because I love it and I love helping the community and watching players’ develop. One day I was like ‘I love this.’ I am pretty fresh but I like making an impact in young children’s lives.”

The girls were working through some technical and tactical soccer lessons like passing, possession and defense.

“I am mocking a training session that I would do with my collegiate athletes,” stated Poon. “So that is kind of what my role is, to give them that college experience and show them how a session is run and what is expected.

“Giving them little tips that they can engrave and remember so when they move on to a four year they can look back and think I am one step ahead.”

The East Valley Earthquakes are a direct affiliate of the San Jose Earthquakes. According to the website, they are a development based philosophy program and are guided by a Long Term Player Development Plan, which calls for creating training environments where the focus is on the development of the players, and not the short-term goal of winning a game or medal. Also added was that their training philosophy involves implementing age-appropriate training curriculum at all levels to ensure the best development of young players. By understanding the correct areas of focus at each stage of a player’s development, coaches can teach to ensure that the players’ education is being correctly facilitated.