PATASKALA – When Kaylee Phillips’ family moved to the area about 15 years ago, organized girls youth soccer leagues were few and far between.
Phillips went to other area communities to play, and she eventually honed her skills enough to become at the time the leading scorer in Licking County history during her Watkins Memorial career. Phillips is now the Watkins varsity coach, and many of her players did not have to go far to find the same opportunities.
“The JV coach and I went to Foundation Park this spring and couldn’t believe how much soccer was being played,” Phillips said. “There are so many actual girls teams. A lot of our players were telling us when they started here that it was all co-ed. Of course, it does make them tougher, but there is just something about being just with girls and their teammates.”
This week, Phillips is hosting her first youth camp. The Watkins boys camp, which was held in June, is co-ed, but Phillips saw an opportunity to have a girls camp for what she hopes are future Warriors.
The camp, which is run by many of Phillips’ players, is a way for girls of all ages to develop chemistry and camaraderie. Those that play together now will stay together down the road.
“We were saying to our four college players here that when you started you had to go to Reynoldsburg or Pickerington and be that odd man out,” Phillips said. “I coach middle school basketball, too, and my girls all play on the same club team. They are so much more closer in school and sports. It is a community.”
The camp is a good opportunity for the girls to unwind after spending this past weekend at a team camp at Ohio Dominican. The Warriors won the championship in scrimmage play.
“They absolutely loved it,” Phillips said. “(Ohio Dominican coach Jonathan Meade) said they really came out to play. They were the only team when they had down time that were playing little games they made up or chatting. There wasn’t that odd group being excluded.”
Senior Amberly Knox and junior Theresa LaGreca are returning captains and leading the way during the summer. Senior Amber White is in Illinois this week participating in an Olympic Development Program regional camp.
The Warriors participate in a 7-on-7 tournament in Strongsville this weekend, an event which usually draws some of the best teams in the state, and Capital University men’s coach and Watkins graduate Alan Yost will hold a camp for the girls just as he did for the boys earlier this summer. Official practice then begins in August.
Watkins has high expectations, returning most of its defending Licking County League championship team. The Warriors, however, left the 2014 season with a disappointing taste, losing in the Division I tournament to Zanesville 1-0 in a game played through a downpour.
“We won the LCL and accomplished that goal, and now it’s time to go deeper into the tournament,” Phillips said. “They have done everything. We have conditioning Tuesdays and Thursdays, and most of them have been here every time. That’s the hardest thing for them to understand is it’s coming. … It’s a waiting game. You will see it pay off soon.”