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Bladen County Soccer Association conducts College ID Camp

Photos by Kenneth Armstrong

The Bladen County Soccer Association held a College ID Camp Saturday at East Bladen High School Saturday as an opportunity to bring area high school soccer players and college coaches together for identification and learning purposes.

Twenty-eight players from East Bladen, Whiteville, Red Springs, South Columbus and West Columbus participated in the camp. College coaches from Mt. Olive, Methodist and Winthrop were on hand to see and interact with the players.

The day started with training sessions followed by a question and answer session during lunch about recruiting and playing collegiate soccer.

“Student athletes don’t realize what it takes to play at the next level and the time that goes into it,” said East Bladen Coach Jay Raynor. “Keyword in there is student – they are students before being athletes and the academic piece is very important.”

The three college coaches discussed scholarship availability. Out of a roster of 25-30 kids there may be only 1 or 2 kids on full scholarship. The others get money from academic scholarships or financial aid.

Division 1 teams are only awarded 9.9 scholarships, Division 2 gets 9 scholarships, and no athletic money for Division 3. “Explaining that to the kids and also what a schedule of a collegiate player looks like were key aspects of the Q & A session,” said Coach Raynor.

The kids later played a regular (11 v 11) match. “The quality of play was very high,” continued Raynor. “The kids left it all out there and truly showcased their abilities.“

Raynor praised the volunteers who helped with the camp including high school coaches Will Garcia of Red Springs, Marc Edge of West Columbus, and Andrew Rice from South Columbus.

Also lending a hand were Dr. Ray Cross and Joe Melvin of the BCSA along with Joe Luther and Robert Gargala who officiated the match. The East Bladen soccer girls helped with registration.

“It was really cool to get all these people together and pull this off today,” stated Raynor. “I’m ecstatic about the turnout and the opportunity to show case 28 players for 3 colleges, who are all held in high regard.“

“This was a dream of mine. I have always wanted to do something like this for the kids,” said Coach Raynor. “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 kid’s life can be changed forever. I thought of what better way to do this than by having an ID Camp. I called my buddies and they were excited and on board from the start.

Raynor also pointed out that the kids didn’t have to travel a long distance and play with kids they didn’t know. “Today we were able to put kids in a familiar environment with familiar faces – that lessens some of the anxiety of being in front of college coaches and gives them the opportunity to display their true abilities and talent.”

“This was another step in growing soccer in Bladen and the surrounding areas,” continued Raynor. “Huge for BCSA, huge for the kids and huge for the coaches who spent an entire day discussing soccer with 3 college coaches.”

Raynor shared comments from the college coaches that “our facility is better than theirs and most college facilities, the usage of the same video recording equipment as the colleges, and how we use technology with our performance trackers/heart monitors that 2 of the 3 college programs don’t have gives the kids a sense of pride and also shows we are serious about our soccer.”

The BCSA will use the camp as a spring board for their next event. They plan to have an ID camp for girls in the fall, and We are in the process of establishing a development league for girls only in the near future.

“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,” concluded Coach Raynor. “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.”

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