PATASKALA – The past week marked the beginning of what will be a busy summer for the Watkins Memorial boys soccer team.
The Warriors will not have much downtime between now and the official start of the season in August, and nobody can say they were not warned. The Warriors return several two- and three-year starters and have high expectations.
“August will be here before we know it,” Spangler said. “I was telling the parents that we are doing a ton of stuff this summer because I believe we can do some special things this fall. I wanted to get started as soon as possible.”
Spangler is ready to go, and so are his players. Supplementing conditioning and open fields, the players had an informal camp this past week with Capital University coach and Watkins graduate Alan Yost, and they head to Ohio Dominican for a team camp next week.
The Warriors then have their organized team practices before closing July with a couple summer tournaments. They fell short of winning Licking County League and Division I district titles a season ago, but the progress made suggests they are within reach this fall.
“It’s kind of daunting that we are starting already, but at the same time, it is good to get things started and get the ball rolling,” Spangler said.
With so much ahead, Spangler enjoyed giving his players a chance to let loose as they served as instructors for the annual youth camp this past week.
Numbers were slightly down due to the girls program hosting a camp later this month, but dozens of kids still flooded the fields each of the three nights. Spangler is beginning to see some familiar faces.
“It’s fun to see them progress as they get older,” he said. “I usually run the little kids, so when they are now 8-, 9-, 10-years old and they are growing and almost as tall as you, it is fun to see their skills develop.”
Of course, Spangler knows he is not the draw.
“The kids come out here to play with the high school guys. They don’t come out here to be with me or the adults,” Spangler said. “They are here to be around the high school guys with the ‘W’ on their chest and have a good time. It’s a blast.”
Columbus Crew goalkeeper Brad Stuver also was on hand to give instruction and sign autographs. Each camper had an opportunity to buy tickets to an upcoming game, and Watkins will have a youth night at a home game during the fall.
Much like football and basketball camps in the area, the Watkins coaching staff has made its camp a week to circle on the calendar each summer. The campers might not all be Watkins soccer players down the road, but a good base certainly is being built.
“They may not be soccer players, but you at least want them to appreciate the game and maybe they grow up to love the game,” Spangler said. “It is just great to have a presence to where maybe we haven’t had in the past and to let them know we care about the kids in the community.”