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Alex soccer camp attracts high-profile coaches

Alex girls' soccer coach Tom Roos (left) listened as former Minnesota Thunder head coach Buzz Lagos talked to a group of players. (Echo Press photo by Blaze Fugina)

High school and elementary aged soccer players from the Alexandria area have the opportunity every year to learn from professional level coaches in their own backyards.

The annual Cardinal Soccer Camp attracts professional and collegiate level guest coaches from around the state. This year, youth players attended the camp during mornings of July 22 through 26 at Jefferson High School.

Alexandria high school girls soccer head coach Tom Roos organizes the camp and has brought in high level soccer personalities from around the Midwest for the past 10 years.

Guests who attended the camp this year included former Minnesota Thunder head coach Buzz Lagos and his son Gerard Lagos, who played professional soccer in Spain, France and the United States.

"It snowballs. Other coaches in the state see that," Roos said. "I can call up any coach, really, in the Midwest without hesitation, and they look at who we already have coming to the camp and they're going to try to make it if it works out."

Living two hours from the Twin Cities, Alexandria soccer players often do not have access to camps with collegiate or professional coaches and players. The Cardinal Soccer Camp has allowed Alexandria's youth players to experience this right at home.

"I think it's a great opportunity," Roos said. "It's always exciting to be around coaches that are among the top coaches in the state, even in the Midwest, and to hear what they have to offer."

Gerard Lagos has been involved in the Alexandria camp for the past five years. Lagos was inducted into the Minnesota Thunder Hall of Fame after a long playing career with the team from 1990 to 2001.

"It's a great camp. The kids are very enthusiastic, so I love it," Gerard Lagos said.

With his involvement in the camp on a yearly basis, Gerard has noticed steady improvement in Alexandria soccer. The Alexandria girls varsity team earned a spot in the state tournament last season.

"Obviously the camp isn't the only reason, but they made the state tournament last year," Gerard said. "I think just getting that soccer mentality in the girls, and hopefully in the boys, that will push their level up."

This was the first year that the Alexandria high school boys were involved with the camp.

As a father of three, Gerard Lagos has experience coaching their teams in youth leagues. He has been able to use his experience playing professional soccer to teach the game to young players.

"I think the one good thing about it, you can do the demos and you can show what you know," Lagos said. "The tough part is translating that into teaching, so you have to set a good example as a coach and think of ways to get the kids engaged."

In his first year as a guest coach, Buzz Lagos was impressed with the level of coaching at the soccer camp. He is no stranger to soccer instruction after being the head coach of the Minnesota Thunder for 16 years.

"I think they've done a great job getting some great staff people here," he said. "Very quality people who know the game well and can teach it well to the kids."

Buzz Lagos is now teaching soccer to a high school inner city team in St. Paul of mostly Somali and Oromo boys. He only does one or two camps a year, and Gerard Lagos' experience with the Cardinal Soccer Camp helped bring him to Alexandria this year.

With a range of experience teaching soccer to people ages 10 to 40, Buzz Lagos said there is little difference between instructing professional players and young athletes.

"There's lots of carryover; it's just that with the pros things go faster," he said. "Many of the exercises are exactly the same, they just move through them more quickly. You have to be a little more patient with the kids and the young players as they develop those skills."

With the high school soccer season beginning at the end of August, the camp gave students the opportunity to start preparing for competition.

"I think they really enjoy it," Roos said. "We've been doing this for a number of years now and it's a great way to kick off our fall season."

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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