Sometimes great ideas don’t see fruition until years later. The timing is not right or the resources are not there. However, those who have these great ideas do not easily give up on them. This is the case for the Little Bears Soccer Camp, which is now taking place at Baylor.
The camp was designed by Baylor soccer head coach Paul Jobson and former Baylor soccer player and second-year graduate student at George W. Truett Theological Seminary Hanna Gilmore.
Jobson said the camp has been 12 years in the making. “I wanted to do something with kids that was a little less structure, a little bit more fun. Just an opportunity to get kids together to learn the game and play,” Jobson said. “It’s taken that long to have someone in place like Hanna [Gilmore] that could facilitate it in the right way.”
For Gilmore, the process hasn’t been quite as long, but she was able to recognize the need for a middle ground between the collegiate level at Baylor and the lowest level of HOT (Heart of Texas) recreational soccer.
“So Paul and I started talking about it about a year and half, two years ago and threw around the idea of starting a soccer club around Waco,” Gilmore said. “We saw a disconnect between kids having the opportunity to play but also being able to learn the technique.”
The goal of the camp is to provide an opportunity to meet a community need. The camp provides a consistent and organized learning environment. The camp teaches soccer in a safe, fun setting.
Even though the idea had been floating around for some time, the action to make this idea into a reality began last spring.
“We got it all set up, started opening registration,” Gilmore said. “Paul polled a couple of his friends that had kids and asked what they thought about this idea. They were all on board. We made shirts, ordered equipment, figured out how much we were going to charge. We put pen to paper.”
The camp is spread out over eight sessions, with the first having taken place on Sept. 6 and the last one taking place on Oct. 25. Each session is structured the same way but focuses on different skills and aspects of soccer.
“Each individual session is going to be broken down into half skill, half scrimmage. The first 30 minutes is teaching learning — to pass, dribble, shoot, the technical aspects of the game — so the kids are learning something and growing,” Gilmore said. “The second half is allowing them to just play. Play without pressure, no coaching. The kids go out and play and are encouraged.”
The participants are split up into small groups which allow for more hands-on coaching and lets the kids develop a sense of comfort among one another, which serves as a great benefit of the camp.
“Our ratio is no more than eight kids for each coach. Once we see and get to know the kids, we can group them so that they are comfortable. We can group each kid based on their ability and comfort level. This can even change each week,” Gilmore said on the Baylor University’s website.
Also, within each session there is a lesson of the day. These lessons are meant to provide a spiritual component without being overbearing. Gilmore lets the 20 or so coaches and player volunteers put their own spin on the lesson and personalize it for their kids.
“The first session was attitude and effort,” Gilmore said. “Understanding that attitude and effort can be spiritual, but it can apply to 4-year-olds, so you meet them where they are.”
The response of the community to Little Bears has been overwhelming for Jobson.
“We had a tremendous response, and we weren’t quite sure what kind of response we would get,” Jobson said. “It got to the point where we had to shut it down at 100 participants with 30 left on the waiting list and people still calling.”
Based on the positive response, Jobson hopes to have Little Bears Soccer continue in the future as supplements to other soccer camps they run, such as Cub Club and Baby Bears.
“Baby Bears and Cub Club are a three- or four-day thing,” Jobson said. “This is run a little bit more like a league. We’re still trying to find that balance between camp and league, and that’s kind of the difference. It’s kind of a hybrid that blends the two together.”
This fall camp will serve as a learning experience and one that Jobson and Gilmore hope to be able to use to help improve the camp moving forward.
“We want to makes sure that we learn from the process, from this first process, see the things that went really well and see the things that maybe we can run a little better,” Jobson said.
Gilmore is open to the learning process and enjoying the experience as the sessions progress.
“We are taking it as it goes,” Gilmore said.
The sessions continue every Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. and will run through Oct. 25. All sessions take place at the Turner Riverfront Complex at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.