WORTHINGTON -- "That's a good pass. That's called splitting the defenders," said Emily Ahlquist in the mid-morning sun.
As Ahlquist watched her campers, Hadhabiya Morke and Dah Hsee, attempt to maneuver around defenders to shoot soccer balls through a pair of orange cones, she continued the encouragement.
"Use your body as a shield," she said.
The student-to-teacher ratio on the first day of Worthington girls soccer camp was outstanding.
Ahlquist, coach of the Worthington Trojans girls soccer team, and her assistants McKayla Gravenhof and Dayana Fuentes-Martinez, faced just two campers next to Prairie Elementary School on Monday morning. Ahlquist said she was expecting more on the first morning, but there was a bright side to it. The campers, Hadhabiya Morke and Dah Hsee, got all the individual attention they craved.
The soccer camp, which forms each morning this week from 9-11, continues through Thursday. Monday was a day to learn dribbling. On Tuesday the emphasis is to be on passing. And later in the week, defending.
Ahlquist expected more campers to show up on Day 2, but until then she was prepared. A dozen soccer balls sat on the green grass, at the ready, ensuring that no camper would be without a ball to dribble and shoot.
Besides teaching soccer skills to impressionable young girls, Ahlquist said her task this week is to help the girls enjoy the sport.
"Helping them get an interest in soccer. Letting them know it's available to them in the seventh grade during the school year."
Ahlquist said that a portion of girls expressing an interest in seventh-and eighth-grade soccer typically come to the program not knowing much about the sport. The summer program, then, is an opportunity to start girls' soccer education early.
On Monday, Morke and Hsee were given a lesson on dribbling. They were reminded there are three parts of the foot - the inside of the foot, the top of the foot, and the outside of the foot. All three parts of the foot need to be used to stop, slow down, hold and kick the ball.
It's all about developing the right touch. If you need to stop a ball in order to pass it or kick it, it won't work to simply drop your foot in front of an incoming ball. That would just cause it to bounce off in the opposite direction. You'll need to soften the impact by bringing the foot back and letting the ball caress the foot.
Ahlquist is hopeful that summer camp can teach a new generation of girls how to appreciate soccer.
New recruits for the 2013 Trojans are needed. The team graduated about 17 seniors last year, and the upcoming team will be young.
Early returns, despite the sparse attendance at Monday's first day of camp, are encouraging. Ahlquist said she witnessed about 40 seventh- and eighth-graders appear for the spring meeting in April, and she was only expecting 15 to 20.
Recalled the coach: "They just kept filing into my room, and I said, 'Wow.'"