Passing on the passion for soccer

State champions share their love for the game with younger players

These young boys are getting a kick out of soccer, and gaining new skills with help from the Papermaker girls team that won the Class 4A state title in 2016.

Members of the Camas High School girls soccer state championship team are trying to keep up with the energetic 5- to 8-year-olds attending their camp, and they’re loving every minute of it.

“It’s really good seeing little kids come out and have that passion for soccer, even though they have only played for a little bit,” said team captain Perri Belzer. “I think it just makes me love soccer that much more, to bring my passion to kids and have them share the same passion.”

Belzer has been on the varsity team all three years of high school. She looks forward to her final season at this level before heading off to Grand Canyon University.

“Senior year; it’s crazy how fast it came,” Belzer said. “I’m excited to get all the girls back and create that family again.”

The Papermakers broke several school records in 2016, on their way to becoming the Class 4A state champions. Some of those impressive stats included 21 wins, zero losses, one tie, 89 goals scored, two goals given up and 66 assists.

Belzer was in the thick of things, firing corner kicks and passes that led to goals. She also helped shut down opposing attackers as a defensive wing.

But, this is not a story about that team or any one of its players. It’s about a sisterhood passing their love for the game down to the next generation. They wear their state championship shirts with pride, and they’re giving them away as prizes.

“They’re a little big on them, but they’ll grow into them,” Belzer said. “It’s been fun hearing them say, ‘Those are the girls that won the championship.’ It’s been humbling and awesome.”

Fellow CHS senior Fallisitie DePasquale feels right at home as a mentor. She spent the summer coaching the Camas-Washougal Crazy Animals recreational team, which had three boys and three girls, ages 4 and 5.

“This was my first year coaching. It was such a good experience,” DePasquale said.

It also takes her back to those days when she first started to kick the ball around.

“I totally remember playing soccer at this age,” DePasquale said. “I was the one that would stand and watch the butterflies. As I got older, I realized I actually needed to start playing.”

She can relate to these young boys and girls. So can Belzer and the rest of the Papermakers. The children get tired, distracted and cranky. They just want to kick the ball, and not have to keep running.

“It shows that not everyone can do things by themselves. We can all do everything together,” DePasquale said. “It’s awesome because Camas is a family. Us girls; we’re sisters. It’s cool to share our passion, and let them know that they’re involved with us also.”

The key to this camp is to keep the children moving, active and having fun. Belzer hopes these traits encourages them to learn more about the game.

“You want to make sure they’re having fun so they continue to do it,” she said. “They’ll build up those bigger soccer skills, and hopefully be at Camas High School playing under the lights.”

Belzer’s love for the game has come full circle. She remembers looking up to the high school players when she was little and aspiring to be like them. Now that she is a Papermaker living her dream, it’s the perfect time to give back.

“It’s fun seeing that they have so much passion for the game at a young age. It just makes me have so much more passion for it,” Belzer said. “Being able to bring it back to the same community I grew up in is awesome.”

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