“Hey, little ones,” Dusty Park calls out, and more than a dozen kids aged 3 to 10 gather around.
Park’s Junior Trojans Soccer Club drew more than 100 young soccer players and prospective soccer players to Petrack Park for a five-night camp last week at Petrack Park, and the young ones are especially eager.
“It’s just a soccer camp, get them out, get them doing things instead of playing video games,” said Park, who has helped the club to significant growth over the past few years. “We’re also looking for kids who can play club with us. We’ll keep our eyes on them.”
Many of the kids are new, and Park pairs up the younger ones with more experienced players. On Thursday, two of the older players were fighting playfully over one of the newcomers. But there were a lot of kids to go around.
“So far we’ve had 114 total signed up,” Park said of the club’s first soccer camp. “We’re going to do it every year. We’ve even talked about doing it twice a year.”
The enthusiasm was evident all over the field, and club members were happy to come out and work with the younger kids.
“We’re just trying to help the younger kids learn the simple techniques of soccer,” said Adriana Avena, 14, who has been playing soccer for nine years.
“They’re practicing at home also, so it helps when they come here,” added 13-year-old Sarah Christiansen, an 8-year player.
“We have all of our club members here, and they’re helping with the younger guys the first hour,” Park said. “Then the second hour is the older kids.”
Park has said his ultimate goal is for the Junior Trojans to have boys and girls teams at every age group competitive enough to allow even the best Pahrump players to play in town rather than play for clubs in Las Vegas. For now, Pahrump teams already are holding their own — and more — in Southern Nevada’s soccer leagues.
“Our boys team, our 07s, were 8-0 this past season,” said Park, referring to a team made up of players born in 2007. “But a lot of our teams do well. They’re turning into great little soccer players, and we’re trying to put Pahrump on the map.”
To that end, the Junior Trojans now field teams three seasons out of the year, with two teams, girls and boys 07s, competing during the summer.
“We play indoor in the summer at Longevity Sports Center in Las Vegas,” Park said. “It’s a different experience for these guys. We’re going to play 10 weekends over there.”
The indoor season began June 8 and runs through Aug. 25.
Meanwhile, back at Petrack Park, after strong winds finished driving a wave of dust across the soccer fields, the older players agree the younger ones are giving it their all.
“I think they’re doing well,” said Leila Denton, 14, who has been playing defense for eight years. “They’re doing good for their age.”
“So far, all of the people I’ve worked with are doing pretty well,” added Avena, who plays forward. “They’re focusing and working really hard.”
Not all of the younger ones are ready for everything the older kids have to offer.
“When they’re a certain age, then they’ll be keepers,” said goalkeeper Avery Moore, a 13-year-old who has played since she was 4. Why be a goalkeeper? “I like diving.”
But even kids who have not been playing for more than two-thirds of his or her life can be hooked on soccer. TJ Graham, 10, stayed on the field after the camp was over, shooting ball after ball into a goal. He said he has been playing since last year.
“We’re teaching each other,” said Graham, as eager to talk about soccer as he is about playing it. “We’re running and getting our strength up.”
Graham, who is going into seventh grade, expects his team to be better going forward, which is a feeling shared by a lot of Pahrump’s soccer players.
“We had some of our younger club players play yesterday in a little scrimmage against some of the nonclub kids, and you could tell a huge difference,” Park said. “They were at the same level less than six months ago.”
With both boys and girls playing in several age groups, the Junior Trojans appear headed for more positive growth — and more positive results — going forward.
“They have to be good athletes and good people before they can ever be great soccer players,” Park said. “That’s our number one. Every kid has to have passing grades to play for our club.”
And the kids are earning better grades on the field as well.