Soccer has become one of the most popular sports in southwest Washington, and Dan Macaya helps to fuel that passion with an annual kids camp.
Macaya started this camp nine years ago as a senior project while at Camas High School. He studied the importance of role-models in child development. Only 15 kids participated. Last week’s camp had 100 kids signed up in advance. Last year there were 130 present.
“Anybody can sign up,” said Macaya. “It’s not advanced, but kids should be willing to try. There’s a lot of high level activity.”
The camp costs $90 that spans five days, running from 9 a.m. to noon. The accepted ages aren’t set, but typically participating children are anywhere from 5 to 13 years old.
“I really like it,” said Lily Schafer, 7. “We work. We have fun. We learn new things.”
Some players are serious about soccer while others are serious only for now. Gena Franco, 13, plays on a select team now and wants to play in high school, but she doesn’t see a future career in soccer. For others, it seems like their whole life.
“Soccer, in my opinion, is the best sport in the world,” explained Gavin Erickson, 8.
Macaya can’t run this program by himself. He uses his many connections to get well-known athletes to coach throughout the whole week or visit for a day. This year, Stephanie Cox and Tina Ellertson, both former U.S. women’s national team players, helped out at the camp.
“This isn’t a babysitting camp,” Macaya said. “There is learning, but we also have fun.”
Each day at camp, the players focus on a certain skill set, like passing or defending. There are games in which prizes are awarded to the winners. Contributions from local businesses really make a difference, Macaya explained.
“It really builds a sense of community here,” he said. “They really want to help.”
Camas-based business The Barbers provided T-shirts for the kids and Washougal Sport and Spine donated money to cover the cost of renting the field.
Macaya also runs training sessions, teaches middle school health and plays for premier teams.
“But I look forward to this every year,” he said with a smile.