EDH youth lacrosse players' improving skills

By: Matt Long
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Some kids attending the third annual Golden State Lacrosse Camp were there to simply play the game, while others came to work on their skills and improve. One thing common with all the participants was their love for the sport. About 35 youth participated in the camp held Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Promontory Park. Andrew Austin, a 16-year-old who recently completed his sophomore year at Oak Ridge, came to play and have fun. “I’ve been to this camp all three years just to be with my friends and play lacrosse and maybe get a little better,” Austin said. “When I’m playing I just blank out and enjoy the sport. It’s hard to explain but it’s fun.” The camp had kids as young as eight and as old as 16 attending. All the campers had played the sport before, so after a brief warm-up period in the morning, some time was spent on basic skills and drills and then scrimmages were held throughout the three days of the camp. “We had a little less participants than in the past years, but we expected that,” Camp Director Jim Niemi said. “But we had a great ratio of eight-to10 players to coach and that made it nice. Even though our numbers are down, the skill level of the kids is the highest it’s been. I was surprised and impressed with how talented these kids are and with their athleticism.” Niemi’s son, Mitch, has been playing the sport for two years and enjoyed the camp. “I like the scrimmages the best,” Mitch said. “I’m playing against bigger, better and older kids and I like it because it’s a challenge to me. My favorite part of the sport is scoring goals.” Brett Maur, 13, attended the camp for the first time. “It’s been fun,” Maur said. “I like how the coaches help you one-on-one and show you how to do the skills. I’ve improved on taking shots on the run, rather than stopping and then taking the shot.” Maur said he enjoys lacrosse because it’s a fast-paced game and because of the physical contact. Cody Place, 14, will be a freshman at Oak Ridge High next year and was looking to get into the lacrosse swing as the school year approaches. “I wanted to get together and be with friends since school has been out, but I also wanted to get used to the high school game since I’ll be playing up there this year,” Place said. “I’ve learned about passing more and working more as a team. It’s been fun.” Niemi and his staff at the camp included Brad Speno and his brothers Charlie and Tim, as well as Scott Baker and Pete Winn. Charlie came in from Baltimore to help at the camp, while Tim, who captained the Duke lacrosse team in 1996, flew in from Kansas. “I do a couple of camps a year, but not as many as I used to when I was in college and right out of college,” Charlie said, who played at Johns Hopkins from 1989 to 1992. “I like working with the younger kids and teaching them the basics of the game.” Niemi said the camp was a success. “We started with the basic skills like passing, catching and throwing and moved into more 4-on-3, 2-on-2 and 6-on-6 team drills,” Niemi said. “As the week went on we did more scrimmaging. It was a good time. We’re doing it for the growth of the game.”