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Staci Hendershott is sharing her soccer knowledge with local kids

by Chuck Smock

Watching Staci Hendershott work a soccer ball is like watching a cat play with a mouse.

You keep expecting the mouse to make a quick – if fleeting – break, but it never does.

Hendershott, the head coach of the UNLV women’s soccer team, is in town this week working two soccer camps at Carson Valley Middle School.

During warmups Monday evening, the coach demonstrated a variety of drills that utilized every part of both of her feet. The former four-year starter at Michigan State pushed and pulled the ball in every direction, eluding imaginary opponents while looking to pass to imaginary teammates.

Hendershott, 29, is entering her second year as the head coach of the Rebels. She has been teaching at camps for the last 10 years and said this week’s event has three or four functions.

“One of the biggest things is getting them in shape for the upcoming season,” said Hendershott. “We want them to get a lot of touches on the ball and to have fun.

“A lot of it is teaching, but it’s also getting to know the kids from the North – that’s some (public relations) for UNLV. And there’s some recruiting, but not that much, honestly.”

Shawn Kenyon, a 20-year-old who is entering her fourth year as a starter for the University of Colorado women’s soccer team, is assisting Hendershott with the camp. The two met at a soccer camp in Boulder, Colo., earlier this year.

“The main thing is to prepare the girls for the high school season, which is right around the corner,” said Kenyon, who helped Denver suburb Highlands Ranch High with the Colorado 5A prep state championship as a sophomore. “In high school (camps), I think skill refinement is the most important thing to work on. The more touches you can get on the ball, the better. And we try to give them stuff they can work on on their own.”

The two sessions of the camp drew 50 high-school age girls, including players from Douglas, Carson, South Tahoe and Whittell high schools.

Ali Shea, who will be a senior at Douglas this fall, said the camp is like a wake-up call for the upcoming season.

“It doesn’t seem like the first game is only a month away,” Shea said. “This helps a lot. I think it really helps get us back in shape.”

Kelsea Newell will be a junior at Douglas. She said having two former Division I college players leading the camp gives the players exposure to some different soccer perspectives.

“It’s always nice to have some new blood as a coach,” Newell said Monday night. “It was really a good workout. After a summer of not touching the ball, it fine-tunes your skills.”

Monday’s session included drills designed to help the players in one-on-one situations.

“We want them working on attacking and getting into a competitive frame of mind,” said Hendershott, who described the drills as fitness disguised as fun. “They did a lot of work, whether they realized it or not.”

The camp will continue through Thursday at Carson Valley Middle School. Morning sessions run from 9 a.m. until noon, while the evening session is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m.