Pam Pack coach and Optimist Club help build up soccer in Washington

Published 7:19 pm Thursday, June 21, 2018

The summer soccer camp put on by the Optimist Club of Washington and run by Washington High School boys’ soccer coach Jim Kozuch wrapped up yesterday after four days of teaching and playing “The Beautiful Game” at the Susiegray McConnell Sports Complex. The camp not only provided Kozuch an opportunity to help grow the game of soccer in Washington, but it also benefitted the Pam Pack soccer team in a number of ways.

The first goal of helping develop a soccer culture in the area seems to be working, as Kozuch was pleased with how many youngsters showed up for the camp. He’s also taken notice of the growth of the soccer league run by the Optimist Club.

“We’ve got over 50 kids out here. Ages, I think they’re four to 13. (The camp’s) turnout has been really good,” Kozuch, who can’t quite recall how long he’s been involved with the camp but knows it’s been at least six years, said. “I think that through the years, the soccer program’s gotten much bigger. I think that they’ve had several hundred kids out here playing in the Optimist league.”

The high school coach didn’t handle the 50-plus campers all on his own. Assisting him were his Pam Pack players, as well as volunteers, such as Nate Burns, of LTG Training, and Tom Anglim, the father of Washington soccer player Tim Anglim.

“Obviously we’ve got a ton of Washington High School kids out here,” Kozuch said. “It’s a community effort. There are a lot of good parents out here and a lot of good coaches.”

With so many campers of varying ages and skill levels, the kids were divided into different groups, based on age. The younger group went over the basics of soccer, while the older group was taught more advanced skills, as well as tactics.

“The young ones, you know 4-and-5-year-olds, we start from the very, very basics. The rules of the game, very simple skills, dribbling, teamwork. It’s a little bit repetitive but that’s how you build it up with those ages,” Kozuch, who worked with the youngest group, said. “We’ve got some really good coaches in the middle and the higher group. Those guys, they’ve taken all those kids to the next level. They’re working on more skills; they’re doing a couple moves. Still probably some strategy and everything, shooting, all the tactics for the older guys.”

While the main purpose of the camp is to help children develop as soccer players, there are additional benefits for Kozuch and his team. He gets his players to volunteer with the camp because he sees it as a way to raise the team’s profile in the community.

“For me, it’s a great opportunity to showcase my guys to the community. Show them that the Washington High School boys, you know we don’t just play soccer; we’re good for the community,” Kozuch said. “We’re trying to do a lot of great things out here. We’re trying to get a soccer field at the high school right now. Just showing the neighborhood all around here that these boys are good and that they deserve to get their field. They put a smile on everyday and come out here and help these young guys. It’s huge for the community, I believe.”

Along with establishing a good reputation in the community for his team, Kozuch said the camp is also a way to build a talent pipeline of sorts for Washington. To aid in that process, he said effort is put into getting the kids out to Pam Pack games.

He said every year they try to have a game where kids who show up to watch Washington play while wearing a soccer jersey are allowed in free of charge and possibly also get an opportunity to walk out on the field.

“Definitely (the kids) see these guys as role models, and obviously when you’re growing up you’re looking for a good role model,” Kozuch said. “If I can get one of my high school guys to be their role model, I think that it’s definitely going to steer them in the right direction.”

With all the work Kozuch, his players and the volunteers put into the camp, combined with the excitement for soccer the campers displayed, it’s very possible one of the camp participants will don a Washington soccer jersey and take to the field in a few years time.