MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Children aboard station laughed and played while learning the fundamentals of soccer during the Seahorse Soccer Camp held at Penny Lake Field here, July 16-18, 2013.
During the three day camp, children practiced proper ball handling, goalkeeping and the most important aspect to any sport; teamwork.
"It's very fun because they're teaching us how to play soccer," said Kristine Torres, camp participant. "They've taught me how to do a really cool pull-back and how to play tricks on people, which is my favorite part."
In addition to learning the ways of soccer, counselors spent the last 30 minutes of each practice tying a religious session into the day’s events.
"We are a faith-based soccer outreach program based in Southern California using the platform of soccer to engage with people," said Paul Gizzi, Seahorse Summer Camp coordinator. “We love to come here to Iwakuni and serve the kids of the armed forces that are supporting us back home."
The camp's presence here is part of their 2013 Women's Outreach Program where women learn how to become sports ministers.
Gizzi said each of the counselors raised their own money to travel to Japan.
In addition to having the opportunity to work in Japan with other sports ministers, the camp provides an opportunity for the Japanese as well.
"We have a counterpart called the Seahorse International Soccer Club and we go to support the Japanese by providing clinics and playing matches against Japanese teams,” said Gizzi. “We've hosted Japanese university teams in Southern California and get the opportunity to know them, introduce them to our culture, and they introduce us to their culture.”
As the final day progressed, coaches worked with the kids culminating all their past two days of hard work for the final game of the camp.
While working with children, some of the counselors began to grow attached with some of the children while doing alternative activities such as piggyback rides, making team cheers and even the occasional magic trick.
"What I'm seeing is the kids are hanging all over these girls," said Gizzi. "One of the things I tell them is that their parents are deployed, they don't get to see them a lot, and they’re going to grow on you.”
Once the final game ended, counselors, campers and parents all got together for a large water balloon fight to cool off from the blistering heat.
With their new found skills in soccer, some hope to apply those skills when it comes time for the Youth Soccer season beginning September 14, 2013.