International Flavor / English club in town looking for soccer players

While soccer fans are losing their minds over this year’s FIFA World Cup, young aspiring soccer players are putting in work in hopes of someday playing on the big stage.

The West Ham United North American Academy is hosting a Player ID Camp for athletes born between 2000 and 2009 at Richard Wigh Soccer Complex. The camp started on Friday and will run through Sunday.

The West Ham Academy is partnered with a company called GIS that transports academies from England to the United States to teach soccer fundamentals to the up-and-coming youth. 

“It gives boys and girls the opportunity to work in an environment where they’re being tested in an elite environment where they’re not used to the intensity and stuff like that,” said Alfie Crickmar, a member of the West Ham club who is running the camp. 

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The camp is broken into three different age groups, and the club uses the it as a way to scout for high-level players. If they find a good enough player, then that athlete has the chance to travel to England to play at the academy and possibly continue their career in soccer, Crickmar said. Crickmar has been in the U.S. for about three weeks, and there are six other West Ham coaches running camps across the country. 

“We have a really large pool of players,” Crickmar said. “We’re just narrowing down, finding the best ones and improving the ones who need improving. It’s just about development and training.” 

The West Ham Academy spends a lot of time on creating high IQ players. Crickmar said it’s not all about the height, size and speed of a player, but athletes need to be able to make clever plays on the field if they want to continue to play in the future. The academy is looking for players who know how to use their feet, make a pass and have good awareness on the field. 

Crickmar is taking what he does at the academy and putting it in a system for the players to learn during this three-day camp. He will pull back on some of the intensity if he finds the players can’t handle it and is looking to increase the intensity if he finds they can catch on quick.

Some of the things he worked on with the the 9-to-12-year-old group on Friday were passing and moving while checking their shoulders to create that spacial awareness to see where they are on the field. Crickmar said many players struggle with that aspect of the game. 

“That’s really hard to teach if they’re not used to it,” he said. “Also, their ability to play in the future is to know my second touch — where my next pass is going to go, where is the next move I’m going to make. Trying to create that player that knows three steps ahead what’s going to happen before he even gets the ball, that’s what we’re trying to do here.” 

Pavit Zhillon is in incoming seventh-grader at Central Middle School who is participating in the camp. He’s been playing soccer for five years and is looking to pick up on a few new things over the weekend.

“I (want to) get better at my foot skills and basically get more agile,” Zhillon said. “It’s really cool.” 

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West Ham United Football Club is a Premier League club based in Stratford, East London, England. It was founded in 1895 as Thames Ironworks and reformed as West Ham United in 1900.