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Henry County got a taste of foreign soccer last week when the Challenger Sports program sent Nicky Askew and Kyle Corfield to Harry Hall Park for a week-long camp last Monday through Friday.
Askew started playing soccer as a three-year-old in England and played in an advanced soccer academy before a series of knee ligament injuries forced him to the coaching side. Corfield, also from England, will try out for a pro soccer team in Ohio. The duo, who worked closely with Challenger Sports in various camps this summer, put on two sessions each day last week — one from 9 a.m. until noon and the other from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.
“They’re the real deal,” said Jennifer Stephens, the vice president of the Henry County Youth Soccer Association who helped lure Challenger Sports to the county. “I’m excited for the opportunities for the kids. They were able to get the skills we can’t offer them.”
Challenger Sports first came to Henry County seven years ago, and contacted the HCYSA earlier this year about the possibility of a return. The two organizations signed a three-year deal that lasts through 2012.
“The reason we signed the agreement is they will give us coaching support as well, (including) Web sites and materials to build stronger soccer programs,” Stephens said. “It gets the kids excited about soccer so they’re already really into it when they enter high school. It provides a lifetime of soccer opportunities for them.”
The aspiring players from all over the county were introduced to the kind of soccer played in England, compared to NBA, MLB or NFL in the United States. Askew said his goal is to improve soccer in America.
“I have come to America to coach kids over here because soccer is the biggest game in the world but in America it’s not even in the top-three sports,” Askew said. “It’s good to get good, quality coaches from England to come here and try and develop not only the sport but the young players we coach as well, and make the kids have fun while they’re learning.”
Askew and Corfield stayed at the home of Jane Pierce, who is a soccer mom involved in the HCYSA, for the week. She said they watched movies, played golf and hung out while getting plenty of rest between and after the two daily sessions.
“They’ve been excited to be here but very, very tired,” Pierce said. “For our youth, the most exciting part to us is they bring professional skills.”
As for the HCYSA, the organization is a recreational league that had 18 teams last year for players ranging from 4-12. The league is designed to teach kids at any age about soccer. It is held at Harry Hill Park but will eventually be moved to the new park in New Castle.
This year’s registration dates are Aug. 8 at the Henry Country Library from 9 a.m. until noon, and Aug. 15 at the pavilion soccer field at Harry Hill Park from 9 a.m. until noon.
And next year — plus the two years that follow — Challenger Sports will return with new players/coaches to help build youth soccer in Henry County.
“I have had a great week coaching the children in Henry County and hope they all keep on playing and get their friends and family to play the game as well,” Askew said. “I really hope they had as much fun as I did.”
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