With the summer drawing to a close, Alpena's soccer players are getting ready to start sharpening their skills to prepare for the highly competitive Big North competition they'll face again this year.
Luckily for them, they can turn to boys and girls soccer coach Tim Storch's third annual "Storch Soccer Academy" to boost their skills.
The Storch Soccer Academy takes place at the Alpena High School practice fields all this week and costs about $15 a day for registered players. It started on Monday and ends on Thursday.
News Photos by Eric Benac
TOP: Excited Alpena area soccer plays get ready to practice on the first day at the Storch Soccer Academy at the practice fields at the Alpena High School on Monday. BOTTOM: Youth girt soccer players practice shooting drills on Monday at the Storch Soccer Academy.
Early Monday registration was somewhat chaotic for coach Storch, as around 60 players registered for his camp. This is easily the highest Storch Soccer Academy turnout yet.
"I think (the high turnout) is reflective of the great job that the TBSA is doing. Their numbers are growing and one of the things I've tried to do is instill some growth in the sport, especially at the youth level," Storch said. "It's really beginning to play dividends, especially with the boys."
One factor that may have influcened increased attendance was the excitement that surrounded the U.S. squad's success in the World Cup this year.
"I've been coaching for 34 years, and every time there's a World Cup, there seems to be a spike in interest in soccer and it's not something that's short lived," Storch said. "With every World Cup spike, there's been an exponential growth in soccer."
Storch has once again split training into two camps: a goalie camp from 11 am to 1:30 p.m. and a fielding camp from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
"(Goalkeeping) is an area of the game that is so specialized, it's just like a quarterback camp in football. You really need special and specific skills to play that position," Storch said. "I played that position in college and post-college, so it's something I really emphasize."
Field player camp activities vary depending on each day. Monday focused on dribbling and shielding. Tuesday is attacking moves, feints and tackling. From there, players learn passing, receiving and heading on Wednesday and shooting and finishing on Thursday.
Several players, such as returning varsity players Zack Kendziorski and Peter Guest, have three years of experience at the camp.
"These camps are very important for younger players. When coach Storch came to town, he really started focusing on getting youth players here to master those basic skills at a young age," Kendziroski said.
However, even varsity players like Kendziorski and Guest benefit from the camp.
"I think it's really helpful to get a chance to work on your skills. Usually, there's other coaches from downstate that come in and bring in even more experience on top of coach Storch's to help you improve your individual skills," Guest said.
Normally, the Storch Soccer Academy runs until Friday, but a scheduling conflict forced Storch to cancel Friday's activities. He compensated by adding an extra hour to the rest of the week's practice days.
"I think that some people like that there's nothing on Friday, especially if they have weekend plans with the family," Storch said. "Four hours might seem like a long time, but premiere camps are all day events, with three sessions. So, from that perspective, I think they're getting a lot of bang for their buck."
Youth players that missed Monday, but are still interested in attending the Storch Soccer Academy, are free to come down to the field and register any time during the week.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.