Playing just for kicks

Monroe Township’s Sandy Ritter looks to ‘pass on’ knowledge by running a free soccer camp for local youth

The coaches and assistants coaches of the Pass it On soccer camp on Aug. 20. (ANTHONY J. MAZZIOTTI III/ The Sun)

As young as 8 years old, Sandy Ritter kept a notebook of soccer training ideas. At age 13, her crayon-written ideas came to fruition.

Pass It On is a free soccer camp for children ages 5 to 9, and the brainchild of Sandy. Her father, Kevin, recalled the early stages of the camp.

“Pass It On is a program that Sandy started when she was 8 years old. She started sketching it out in crayons,” Kevin said. “She knows there’s a need for more people to get some decent training out there. Her plan was to bring in other former players, kids with good training, and pass it on to younger kids.”

With a growth in popularity, soccer clubs have had an increasingly difficult time finding coaches for all of the children who sign up. Kevin acknowledged that, “It’s getting these kids a feel of what it’s like to be a coach. One of the hard things soccer clubs have is getting coaches. There’s always a need. The first night was a success, they came off the field saying ‘I love coaching the little kids!’”

To start the camp, Sandy had to prepare a presentation to the Monroe Township Youth Soccer board.

“Sandy came up with the idea, and she had a syllabus created. She brought it to the board’s attention and we instituted the program,” Board Vice President Lenny Nasatka said. “I think it’s going to be a great program.”

The Ritter family, from left, Mandy, Jennifer, Sandy and Kevin at the Pass it On soccer camp on Aug. 20. (ANTHONY J. MAZZIOTTI III/ The Sun)

In the week leading up to the camp, Sandy will put together a practice plan. In that plan she’ll include a few drills for the kids to do. Upon arrival at the soccer field, she brings the kids together, teaches the skill and divides the kids into groups of 10 with two trainers per group. Each group, named after a country, will work on its skill with the trainer. The assistant coaches are all former teammates of either Sandy or her sister Mandy.

The concept for naming the groups after countries comes from a camp Sandy attended when she was younger.

“I went to a Mia Hamm camp and I loved it, that’s what they did there,” she said.

Another aspect of Hamm’s camp Sandy wanted to re-create was having dance contests with the attendees and having them take turns telling jokes in an effort to build a bond and break the ice between the kids.

Sandy makes the drills into game-like activities for the kids. For instance, to practice dribbling the soccer ball, they played a game called alien invasion, where the kids have to dribble the soccer ball down the field without being touched by the coaches in the middle of the field.

“Most of the time the kids don’t realize they’re doing soccer training, they think they’re playing games,” Kevin said.

Sandy acknowledged that there is a need in the community for soccer camps like the one she is running.

“There’s always kids that can’t afford super high-end soccer. Some can’t even afford cleats. This is something to let them have fun,” she said. “I want to be around soccer all the time. I’d like to coach.”

Pass It On, despite only being booked for three weeks in August, is leaving its mark on the community. Kevin said parents have emailed them leaving nice comments about it.