ELIZABETHTOWN — If East Bladen soccer coach Jay Raynor has a bucket list, then holding a camp where local players and regional college coaches could come together for educational and training purposes is probably near the top of the list.
On Saturday, Raynor crossed that item off his list as the Bladen County Soccer Association sponsored a College ID Camp at East Bladen.
“This was a dream of mine,” Raynor said. “I have always wanted to do something like this for the kids. We have a ton of talent in this area that is untapped and undiscovered. All it takes is that one chance to be seen by the right person and a kids life can be changed forever.
“I thought … what better way to do this than by having an ID Camp?” he added. “I called my buddies and they were excited and on board from the start.”
A total of 28 players from Bladen, Robeson and Columbus counties joined college coaches from Mt. Olive, Methodist and Winthrop for the camp, where things got underway with 35-minute training sessions and, after lunch, a Q&A session was held to give the students an idea what they can expect from potential recruiting efforts at Div. I, Div. II and Div. III, as well as what collegiate soccer is like.
“The Q&A was extremely important and beneficial,” Raynor said. “Student athletes don’t realize what it takes to play at the next level and the time that goes into it. The key word in there is student — they are students before being athletes and how important the academic piece is.”
He added that everyone involved with the camp was impressed with the level of player talent and how well the day went. he also commended the volunteers who came out to assist.
“The coaches from the surrounding high schools came out — Will Garcia from Red Springs, Marc Edge from West Columbus, Andrew Rice from South Columbus, Ray Cross and Joe Melvin to name a few,” Raynor said. “We also had the East Bladen soccer girls volunteer and help with registration, and Joe Luther as well as Robert Gargala came in and officiated the match.
“It was really cool to get all these people together and pull this off,” he added. “Everyone played a huge role in making this first-ever event take place.”
The camp, in addition to the benefits realized by the players and the coaches who took part, also served as a step toward making soccer stronger in Bladen County.
“Our goal is to give every boy and girl a chance to play, get exposure, and grow to be the very best they can be on and off the field,” he said. “To make our community a better place we have to invest in our youth and BCSA is dedicated to doing all we can to make that happen.”
There are plans to host a College ID Camp for girls in the fall.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.