By Tori Benavente, Post-Record staff writer
When Dan Macaya was a senior at Camas High School, he developed a senior project that not only met his career interest in teaching physical fitness, but also gave back to his community.
Today, that project has morphed into the annual Macaya Soccer Camp, a weeklong summer camp for children ages 5 to 14 that Macaya hosts every summer. On Monday, the 14th summer session of the camp began, and runs from 9 a.m. to noon at Prune Hill Elementary each day this week. The players receive instruction from knowledgeable local soccer players.
Macaya, a health and fitness teacher at Liberty Middle School, played soccer for four years at Camas High School before playing at Western Washington University and Concordia University.
He has been a coach and trainer in Southwest Washington since 2003, and will begin the next school year as the head coach of the Camas High School boys soccer team.
Over the years, the numbers of participants in Macaya’s soccer camp has fluctuated, once drawing more than 100 players and now attracting between 25 to 40 young soccer lovers. Macaya says the decrease in participants allows for more one-on-one training and instruction to happen.
“I think (the camp) has grown in quality, we’re able to give better instruction,” Macaya explains.
He sets high expectations for himself as a coach, and maintains the quality of the camp by communicating with parents, making sure things are organized and that the coaches know their stuff.
“I don’t bring in coaches that are just anybody,” Macaya says. “I make sure that they’re engaged with the players.”
The coaches often are college athletes home for the summer, or other soccer players that Macaya has coached. He hopes to see more Camas players coach at the camp in the future.
This year, two of the young men coaching at Macaya’s camp are former Camas players, and one is home from Seattle Pacific University.
Ally Findlay is a first-time coach at the camp and plays on Salmon Creek FC, with Macaya as her coach. She says she likes helping the participants become better soccer players.
“The kids have a good time and it’s a lot of fun being out there,” Findlay says.
The camp usually has prestigious guest coaches and speakers. This year, Ellie Boon, a former Washougal High School and University of Portland athlete who now plays for the Portland Thorns FC, will visit the field.
“I think (the speakers and coaches) have a big impact because they can inspire the kids,” Macaya said. “If they can see that a coach cares about them and wants them (to know) the proper way to play, then maybe they want to work harder.”
The coaches show the kids that they care by giving them instruction, treating them with kindness and encouraging them when they’re playing, he said.
“Especially on the first day, I had one kid tell me ‘I was really scared for camp and now I’m having a great time,'” Macaya said.
Ultimately, Macaya says he thinks that the high quality of instruction is an important component of the annual soccer camp.
Parent Holly Jacobs says she signed her six-year-old son, Owen, up for the camp because he had friends participating in it and was excited about going.
Owen came home after the first day of camp feeling positive and exhausted, Jacobs says.
“We’ve heard great things about (the camp) and how fun it is for the kids, and how much they learn,” Jacobs says.
One of the biggest rewards of running the camp for Macaya is seeing the progression of players over time. The Camas girls soccer team won the state championship last year, and a number of them have gone through his camp, Macaya says, adding that the children can start developing at the camp and, if they want it, the option to keep striving for greatness is there for them.
“I think growing up in Camas, my parents taught me that you should always give back to the community and help others within the community, and that’s what I love about the camp, there’s a lot of people that help,” Macaya says, adding that he’s thankful for the local businesses that donate to the camp, including The Barbers, Washougal Sport and Spine, and Kris Cavin, who works with Country Financial in downtown Camas.
“Ultimately, I love it because I’m coaching soccer, it’s my passion,” Macaya said. “And to teach kids the proper way to play, technique-wise, is important, and it gives kids something to do in the summertime.”