Team USA soccer stars Clint Dempsey and Jose Torres were both discovered at Northeast camps hosted by the North Texas State Soccer Association.
But this past weekend marked the first time in which NTSSA has held a camp in Longview.
Soccer players ages 11-19 received advanced instruction during a two-day Olympic Development Program at the old Pirate Stadium on Pine Tree Road.
Amanda Woods said her son, Ethan, was excited to be able to attend a soccer camp without having to leave Longview.
Woods’ son was one of 54 youth soccer players who attended the East Texas Olympic Development Program on Sunday.
“He’s a goalie so we look for anything like this,” she said. “We knew this would be a great experience for him to see the level of competition and for him to end up excelling is what he’s looking forward to.”
Woods said her son previously attended a soccer camp at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
“He’s on a club team and he wants to end up with a college scholarship so I hope he sees what he has to accomplish to get there.”
Gary Williamson, North Texas State Soccer coach for the NTSSA, cited former Longview Lobo Torres and Nacogdoches’ Dempsey as two famous players who were discovered and developed at camps run by the NTSSA.
“The main reason is to identify, develop and train the best players in East Texas for future selection to the North Texas state teams,” he said. “It’s development, first and foremost, for all ages. So there’s a level for everybody to play at. Be it at the local level, on their club team or high school team, the state team level and then from that to the regional level and national team level.”
Pine Tree High School Soccer Coach Andre Lo helped organize the event and said the NTSSA coaches were focused on improving the players’ ability to work with teammates in passing the ball.
“You have to learn how to read each other’s cues to make the passes,” he said.
One of the NTSSA instructors, George Neofotistos, played professionally in his home country of Greece.
Neofotistos said the ability for youth soccer players to have fun while learning the game is important.
“That’s the basis of the whole thing,” he said. “So we’re trying to make them enjoy the game whether they’re going to play to a certain level or not.”
Deborah Brockway said her children, Sharon and Luke, attended the camp because of their commitment to the game they love.
“They just want to better their skill,” she said. “This is just extra. I gave them the option to come but they didn’t have to.”
For $75, Brockway said the camp provided an affordable alternative to private lessons.
“For 13 hours of soccer at that price you can’t get a private lesson,” she said. “Here, they get sharpened a little bit more, learn something new and see it in a different way.”