British invade Suffolk

Published 9:08 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Coach Jonathan Twigg of England gives Kiera Mallas a high-five during the Challenger Sports’ British Soccer Camp.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy hosted a soccer camp last week that gave 24 local kids the opportunity to learn soccer and life skills from British and Irish instructors, who in turn, got to experience life in Suffolk.

Last week marked the first time that NSA had welcomed what boasts as the No. 1 soccer camp in the United States and Canada — the Challenger Sports’ British Soccer Camp.

“We have such strong local programs, which is great; this builds on that,” NSA communications coordinator Ashley Greene said.


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From thousands of qualified coaches, Challenger Sports picks the best, and Jonathan Twigg of England and Anthony Cooper of Ireland administered the half-day camp at NSA.

Jamie Maples takes a shot during a drill on Thursday that was part of the Challenger Sports’ British Soccer Camp held at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy last week.

Jamie Maples takes a shot during a drill on Thursday that was part of the Challenger Sports’ British Soccer Camp held at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy last week.

Twigg, 24, said he and Cooper “played at a good standard back in England and Ireland, respectively. I kind of took the route of working in media and I’m working TV, and coaching was just kind of a pastime and something I wanted to give back to my community.”

Both have played soccer since they were 6 years old and either developed an interest in or started coaching at 17.

Cooper, 22, said, “I’m still in college now and doing a degree in sports coaching,” so coming here gives him some experience and an opportunity to see the U.S.

The coaches stay with a different host family each week, depending on where they are. Cindy Payne of Suffolk hosted them last week.

“We get to see the States, we get to go to baseball games, they want to take us out, want to go for meals, they want to interact with us all the time,” Twigg said. “We absolutely love it, and it’s a pleasure to do it.”

“The families get a lot out of it, and we get a lot out of it, because we get to see real America, rather than going to Walt Disneyland and seeing a sprinkling of it,” he said.

Each day at camp, the coaches taught the kids different fundamentals of soccer.

“I got better shooting,” 9-year-old Emily Dumaran said. “And I learned some footwork.”

“I’ve learned a bunch of tricks, and I’m a lot better at scoring goals and passing,” 10-year-old Grace Russell said.

Many of the kids, including Lily Bivins, Holden Cummings and Kiera Mallas, said they liked playing games, which had names like Cowboys and Indians. Twigg said that this was all part of the process used to teach basic skills.

“It might be a passing game — they’re enjoying the game, because we put characters into it and have different rules and prizes, but they don’t know they’ve just learned how to pass a soccer ball 10, 15 yards with the side of their foot,” he said.

A scrimmage is played at the end of each day called the World Cup. Aside from winning games, kids earn points for their World Cup team by applying the five character traits the Challenger Sports camp emphasizes: respect, responsibility, integrity, sportsmanship and leadership.

Noting NSA’s similar points of emphasis, Greene said, “Their mission aligns directly with Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s mission.”

“These are fundamentals, not just as a soccer player, but for a young person and an adult, as well,” Twigg said.

He said seeing the kids learn these things and acquire his and Cooper’s passion for soccer are their goals for the camp.

“We also have fun, as well,” Cooper said.

For example, Tuesday was Flag Day, and he said, “Points go for the biggest flag, the smallest flag, some kids paint it on grains of rice, and the tastiest flag, so the mother of one of the kids made Spain cookies for us.”

Working well with kids is important to the coaches’ success. Twigg said he has experience working with kids on the set of children’s TV programs, while Cooper has to have a similar skillset going into different schools to coach.

And each has an accent that helps a great deal to command the kids’ attention.

“With the accent and everything, it’s kind of like Harry Potter, it’s like out of a film or something,” Twigg said.

NSA will host a Challenger Sports TetraBrazil Soccer Academy camp starting July 22 with Brazilian coaches. For more information on this and other NSA summer camps, call 539-8789 ext. 2504.