Current pros offer a hand to Alexandria soccer
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria head girls’ soccer coach Tom Roos knew eight years ago how he could make his annual summer soccer camp a unique experience for his athletes.
The key was adding a little star power. Roos has hosted his camp for junior high and senior high girl players along with elementary-age kids for 12 years now. Four years into that, he added another dimension to it by bringing in former professional players and some of the top coaches in the Midwest.
Last Wednesday, Roos added to that when current professional players Andy Lorei and Gino Mauro of the Minnesota Stars FC were on hand to work with the athletes. Roos is able to land guest players and coaches by working with Arrowwood Resort general manager Jeff Wild, who puts the guests and their families up during the week-long camp.
“To be able to bring in current pro players and create an opportunity where our kids can get on the field and go through practices with current pro players, it’s really exciting for the kids,” Roos said. “It’s really exciting for me to be able to facilitate that experience.”
Lorei is a midfielder who joined the Stars in March 2011 after starting his professional career at age 19. Mauro, originally from Ajax, Ontario, joined the Stars midseason last year after playing part of the year in Italy.
“It’s really exciting,” Lorei said of working with the kids. “I’ve had a love of soccer since I was 7 years old, and I have a chance to give back. It’s fun when you see the smile on their faces and they’re running around and having fun.”
Lorei was working with boys and girls in kindergarten through 5th grade on the practice fields behind Jefferson High School. At that age, it’s all about having fun. Lorei used games to work on their ball handling and broke the kids up into teams for a scrimmage to wrap up the hour-long sessions for each age group.
On the high school field off Nokomis, Mauro worked with the junior and senior high girls. He said athletes that age are already molded into the type of player that they’re going to be to a certain extent. His goal was to help them understand what it takes to expand their game to another level.
“At this age, you want to kind of just enhance the drills that they learned to love and have fun with,” he said. “Teach them that sometimes in soccer you have to practice the hard things that aren’t too fun and sometimes you have to go back to the basics and enjoy the things you grew up loving.”
The message Roos hopes his players take from working with all the guest coaches is about more than just soccer. Former professional players Gerard Lagos and Greg Wheaton were also on hand to help out.
Lagos played professionally in Spain and France as well as being a member of the U.S. National team. Wheaton is the current head men’s soccer coach at Northwestern College in St. Paul after a professional playing career that included stints in Brazil, Bolivia, Africa and the Middle East. All the guest coaches on hand not only know the game, but they know what it means to set goals and how to accomplish them.
“These guys have the knowledge and ability to share information to bring the kids’ game at the high school level up a notch,” Roos said. “The other thing that they share from their own story is if you are really passionate and you want something, whether it’s soccer or music or whatever, their message is it takes commitment and it takes time and effort. Things aren’t just handed to you, and I think that’s a valuable message that they’ve been sharing with our high school players.”
The idea is that that message resonates with the fall soccer season right around the corner.
“My hope, and I think it’s successful, is it builds up excitement in them,” Roos said. “They go into the season pretty jazzed up. They just had a great experience with five different guest coaches that are at the highest level. It just creates an excitement that we hope carries over into our high school season.”