An opportunity to speak to kids at the Dan Macaya Soccer Camp Friday took Nick Palodichuk back in time.
Long before he won a state championship on the Camas High School boys soccer team, or scored a goal for the United States in the U-17 World Cup against Nigeria. Back to when he started kicking a soccer ball against a wall at the age of 5.
“My mom coached my team for the first two years. She’s a very big part of my life,” Palodichuk said. “When you’re young like that, you don’t care about anything. You’re just out there having fun.
“I remember when I was 11 or 12, running as fast as I could just to get to the ball,” he added. “Camps like this one is where I got started. I used to be one of these kids, just messing around and having fun with my friends.”
Palodichuk’s story is inspiring. After travelling overseas to play soccer on the U.S. under-17 national team, he reunited with his high school buddies and helped lead the Papermakers to third place at the state tournament. He was also named Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year, in the state of Washington, and PARADE magazine’s 2010 High School Boys Soccer All-American Player of the Year.
From humble beginnings to playing soccer on an international stage before he turned 18, Palodichuk has never lost sight of the coaches, players and camps that helped him on his journey.
“It’s not about individual awards, it’s about the team. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the coaches I had and the people I played with,” Palodichuk said. “These camps are what made me want to come play soccer. Anything I can do to inspire kids, it’s a great thing. Anything that makes them want to go out and play soccer, it’s a great thing.”
When it came time for the kids to ask Palodichuk questions, they threw him a couple of curve balls. They wanted to see some of his favorite ball moving tricks, or how many times he could juggle the ball in the air without it touching the ground. One kid even asked what flavor of Gatorade Palodichuk drinks.
Camp leader Dan Macaya, a 2003 CHS graduate, didn’t seem surprised. He said the kids fought over Gatorade flavors all week.
“At the end of each day, these kids had a foot race to get their favorite Gatorade,” Macaya said. “Color and flavor is very important to them. It’s pretty funny.”
This is the eighth year for the Macaya soccer camp. Macaya said it would not be possible without the help of volunteers. CHS grads Sami Andrews (2007) and Brittany Oljar (2010) helped at the camp this year, along with Chico Arreguin, James Partee, Alex Ponce and Max Von Rabenau.
“I loved that the kids were so eager to learn new things. You could just tell that they love the game of soccer,” Oljar said. “I came from such a great soccer community, to be able to give back is so rewarding. One day, I hope to be back here coaching a youth team in Camas.”
Andrews plays soccer at Concordia University, and Oljar is about to begin her college career at Oregon State University. Arreguin and Ponce were teammates with Macaya when he played at Concordia. Von Rabenau coaches with Macaya in the Camas-Washougal Soccer Club.
“Having players who grew up in this area want to come back and help out is huge,” Macaya said. “My parents always taught me to give back to the community that gave so much to you. It shows these kids that if they work hard enough, they can also play soccer in high school, college and beyond.”