Getting their kicks
The event drew participation from 100 youngsters, who learned basic passing skills, ball control and a few tricks they can show off to their friends.
Galaxy Midfielder Dan Keat, the featured guest at the event, said teaching the basics to youngsters is a privilege.
“I love helping out at camp,” he said. “There are some future soccer stars out here today, and I enjoy seeing the look on children’s faces when they master a skill and move their game forward.”
Keat grew up in New Zealand and developed his game in a different environment, he said, but in the end, soccer is soccer.
“The common ingredients are a ball, kids and genuine passion for the game,” he said. “That inspires me and the children.”
“I founded the group four years ago, and we currently do the pre-game and halftime entertainment during home games,” James Ortega said. “We work very hard at our craft every day, and it takes dedication to the sport we all love.”
The group taught the youngsters how to juggle the ball with their feet, giving children some independent skills as they continue growing with the game.
“The first step is learning the nine elements of good ball handling,” Ortega said. “That in- cludes using the top of a player’s shoelace, foot, thigh, shin, shoulder, head and heel” he said. “The Futboleros academy begins in September, so children who are serious about developing their soccer skills can receive additional training.”
“Players must control their body weight and have a center core,” he said. “When we perform our juggling skills we use an under-inflated ball and special shoes.”
Former Galaxy player Clint Mathis serves as director of the youth academy and led the children through basic skills exercises.
“The best part about my job is hanging out and playing soccer with kids,” he said. “We set up three stations, and the kids spent time learning skills from the Futboleros, along with basics like running while kicking the ball from the coaches.”
Cozmo declined to comment, but gave The Bulletin a thumbs-up during the event.
Programming and Youth Development Director Gordon Kljestan said the team has a close relationship with its neighboring communities.
“They support us and we support them,” he said. “When kids get the opportunity to come out and spend quality time with the players and coaches, it adds to the community.”
Parks and Recreation Supervisor Anthony Cartwright said the event caps off a fantastic summer.
“This is our third year working with the Galaxy’s foundation and we are very fortunate to have them here,” he said. “We have kids here from our leagues today, but many more youngsters saw the flyers and want to get involved.”
The door remains open for any child interested in playing soccer, Cartwright said, and he looks forward to the continued growth and success of the program.
“The kids will walk away with T-shirts and Galaxy tickets this afternoon,” he said. “The group dedicates itself to community involvement. Last year, the Galaxy produced a public service announcement and used children from Compton in the commercial.”
Call Cartwright at 310-605-5688 for more information about youth soccer in the Hub City.