Sports

Former Foxcroft Academy soccer star stays in the game with his own youth camp

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — As he considers his future in the sport following a serious knee injury last summer shortly before starting college, for the second consecutive year Dover-Foxcroft resident and 2016 Foxcroft Academy graduate Tino Ayala helped dozens of younger players in kindergarten through grade 8 improve their skills through his Ayala Soccer Academy July 10-14 on campus of the SeDoMoCha School.

“It’s been a great week of soccer,” Ayala said during a mid-morning water break for campers on July 14. He said there was only one duration of rain over the five-day, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. camp, but participants were able to head inside and use the school facilities. Ayala Soccer Academy campers were able to take part in the daily free breakfast and lunch program at the SeDoMoCha School, as in the summer children under 18 can receive free meals from 8:30-9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to noon.

“We work on individual skills, team skills and just enhancing their skill in play,” Ayala said, saying he wanted to offer the camp at an affordable price.. “We do competitions, individual and team. We have prizes at the end of the week that we hand out — that we’re going to do today.”

Ayala said the “medals” given to honorees such as “Camper of the Week” and “Skill Player of the Week” feature ribbons the recipients can wear around their necks but instead of medals at the end the ribbons are attached to bags of candy.

“We work on moves, attacking and defending, turning and just getting a touch on the ball,” Ayala said. “At this age having more touches on the ball is the best thing.”

“For this week it’s all about trying to create a love for the sport in these kids, so that’s my biggest thing,” the camp namesake said. He said about 45 participants were taking part.

“We have K through 4 on one side and then fifth through eighth on the other, but for our big games we bring them all together and it’s good to have some of the kindergarteners looking up to the older kids and seeing what they can do and hopefully get better some day,” Ayala said.

He said this year’s campers are from towns such as Dover-Foxcroft, Sebec, Guilford, Milo and Dexter, whereas the 2016 camp “was a little more just Dover, this year we spread out a lot more and I’m actually running another camp in Greenville this year.”

Ayala said he was asked to bring his Ayala Soccer Academy north to the Moosehead Lake region, and some of the Dover-Foxcroft participants will be taking part in the second session “so they can have some more numbers and get more experience and time on the ball.”

The July 10-14 camp included soccer players from out of state. “We have kids from New Jersey, New York, and New Hampshire so that was pretty cool,” Ayala said. He said these participants were visiting relatives in mid-July and the timing worked well for them.

“We have seven helpers this year, all high-schoolers,” Ayala said. He said these students are rising sophomores and freshmen, including his younger brother Rico who will be a sophomore on the Foxcroft Academy soccer team when practices start next month.

“The high-schoolers get involved and help the little kids and they look up to them,” Tino Ayala said.

In the fall Ayala will start his second year at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H. where he is enrolled in the seven-year doctorate of physical therapy program. His soccer camp is a way to help pay for his education but instructing the young players is more than a summer job.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Ayala said. “I used to work at my grandfather’s paintball shop so that was the same thing, it was fun even though technically it was a job and this is the same thing. I enjoy it, this is what I do to raise money and I want to give back to the community and everything I have done. I have spent a lot of years training and working hard so I wanted to give back to the kids.”

He said the Ayala Soccer Academy also served as a kind of therapy as he recovered and rehabbed his left knee.

In the summer of 2016 Ayala was a part of a contingent of Maine high school soccer players selected for an exchange program with an English academy. “It was a phenomenal trip, I had so much fun and I got to meet a lot of players from across the big pond and the last day I injured myself,” he said.

“It was in a tournament and the last day of the tournament I tore my ACL, MCL, meniscus and I had a tibial plateau fracture, it was a mess,” Ayala said. “I came back, had surgery and I’ve been out for a year so this is kind of what’s gotten me back into things. I’m starting to get back into shape and hopefully maybe I can try something for the collegiate level.”

Ayala said even if he does not play soccer at his NCAA Division II school, he still hopes to be involved in the sport for many years to come.

“I will always love the game and if coaching is my next step then that’s what I want to do,” he said. Ayala said he might get his coaching license in the near future “and maybe start something from there if the collegiate side doesn’t work out.”

A venture into the formal coaching ranks would allow Ayala to follow in the footsteps of his father Luis, the long-time boys soccer and wrestling head coach at Foxcroft Academy. “I look up to my dad, he’s always been the biggest influence in me so I kind of want to do what he does,” the younger Ayala said. “Maybe someday I can coach a team, whether it’s soccer or wrestling.”

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
AYALA SOCCER ACADEMY — Tino Ayala, a rising sophomore at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire and a 2016 Foxcroft Academy graduate, speaks to attendees of his Ayala Soccer Academy on July 14 at the SeDoMoCha School campus in Dover-Foxcroft. Looking on is Ayala’s brother Rico — a rising sophomore at Foxcroft Academy — who was one of seven high school students helping out at the week-long camp for kindergarten through grade 8 soccer players.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
SUMMER SOCCER — Soccer camp namesake Tino Ayala watches participants in last week’s Ayala Soccer Academy in Dover-Foxcroft work on their skills. Ayala said the July 10-14 session is intended to help boys and girls improve their abilities and develop a love for the sport.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
CAMPERS FROM THE AREA AND FROM ACROSS THE NORTHEAST — About 45 students in kindergarten through grade 8 took part in the Ayala Soccer Academy on July 10-14 on the SeDoMoCha School campus in Dover-Foxcroft. The participants came from towns in the surrounding area as well as some from New Hampshire, New York and New Jersey who were visiting the region.

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