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Girls sign up for soccer

by Christina Nelson

Women’s soccer – a sport that once only had a place for young girls playing on boys’ teams – is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

With the U.S. Women’s recent victory at the World Cup, soccer has been gaining popularity among women across the United States.

The World Cup this weekend in Pasadena drew more than 90,000 spectators, the largest crowd ever to a women’s sporting event. Now girls seem to be showing up more and more for soccer camps and tryouts.

Monday at the Brittania soccer camp in Westwood Park, elementary and middle school-aged soccer players gathered around four coaches waiting for their next instructions. One coach told them to get on their knees and slowly bow for a cool down exercise.

“And if you want, you can say, ‘We are not worthy,'” joked Coach John Hood with a smile. Hood, who is from Scotland, and three other coaches from England are spending eight weeks coaching youths on the West Coast.

Even though it was the end of the day and the players were tired, they still had huge smiles across their faces.

About half of the participants were girls, eager to become the best they can be at the sport and someday make it on the U.S. team like their role models.

“I like it because it gives me a challenge, and it’s fun,” said Melissa Vecchione, 12.

n Popular in U.S. Edd Roberts, a Brittania coach from Manchester, England, said girls’ soccer isn’t as popular in England. At a camp of 80 youths, maybe four would be girls, while in the United States, there would be 20 to 30 girls in a group of the same number, he said.

“It’s fantastic that it’s all spread out,” Roberts said about the growing gender equality in American soccer. “They see the women on TV and they have some pretty good role models.”

Fred Schmidt, Douglas High School varsity girl’s soccer coach, knows how nerve-wracking penalty kicks during playoff and final games can be.

“We lost (last year) in the same scenario that the U.S. won in. It was the first time we lost,” Schmidt said. In his five years of coaching, Schmidt has been in six penalty kick situations and said it never gets easier.

Schmidt and his family attended the playoff games in Palo Alto and said they saw five people in his section alone from the Carson Valley and Carson City area.

“It shows that Nevada is just as caught up in the World Cup fever,” he said. “Soccer has been growing every year. The AYSO program in the Valley is well over 1,000.”

The only female coach at the Brittania camp, Tracy Bennie of England, said she had to play with boys when she first started soccer.

“That’s why I like coaching girls,” she said.

She also said she thinks the World Cup has already attracted more women to the sport.

“The comment from my daughter is that it (the World Cup) makes you want to go out and play,” Schmidt said.

For now, younger players are working on their skills and watching their favorite players.

Six-year-old soccer camp participant Devyn Hotho’s favorite part of the World Cup Soccer Game?

“That they kicked it way up in the air,” she said.