Sports

Aspiring coach guides young players through his annual soccer camp

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — A former Foxcroft Academy soccer star is again helping dozens of young players in kindergarten through grade 8 improve their skills on the pitch through his annual Ayala Soccer Academy. The third annual camp run by 2016 Foxcroft Academy graduate Tino Ayala was held in Dover-Foxcroft from June 25-29.

“We have around 60 kids, that’s the most I’ve ever had,” Ayala said on June 29 in-between the final day’s morning and afternoon sessions at the athletic field next to the Morton Avenue Municipal Building. “The first year we started with around 25 and then last year we had around 40 and I was not expecting 60. With the counselors, the high school kids I have helping out, it’s around 70 now. It’s enjoyable, it makes it fun.”

Ayala said about 25 campers were signed up in advance but the enrollment total more than doubled with late registrations.

“So this week we’re working on personnel skill moves, especially with a big group you can get into the more tech-oriented stuff,” he said. “We work on communication and how to move as a team. It’s a little more of a team concept especially with the little guys, they don’t have the understanding yet. So the first couple of days we work on personnel skills and the last few days we do team-building and stuff like that.”

“We’re doing the competitions again so we have some pretty cool prizes, a couple of soccer balls, toestring bags and the candy awards for players who went above and beyond in skill moves, their behavior and certain competitions,” Ayala said.

The 2018 edition of the Ayala Soccer Academy posed some logistical challenges for the organizer. With the parking lot at the SeDoMoCha School being rebuilt, the campers needed to move across the street to the town field. “We adapted, we called some people to make sure some things were OK,” Ayala said.

The Thursday of the week-long camp featured rain, but the Morton Avenue gym was in use that day. “We had to go to (Foxcroft Academy) for a day,” Ayala said. “It was a tight gym but we got it done. It was a nice change of pace especially being out of the sun, some of the kids needed it.”

He said this year’s participants are from Charleston, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Exeter, Guilford, Milo, Monson and Sebec.

“I would say probably half of them have done it before,” Ayala said. “Some of the counselors are kids I had the years before so it’s pretty cool that everyone wants to keep on coming so that means a lot to me that kids keep coming back.”

In the fall Ayala will start his third year at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H., where he is enrolled in the seven-year doctorate of physical therapy program. A serious injury — a torn ACL, MCL, meniscus and tibial plateau fracture — sustained while playing in a soccer tournament in England during the summer of 2016 prevented Ayala from being able to try to play soccer at his NCAA Division II school during his first two years.

He said that while his competitive playing days may very well be over, the next stage of his involvement in the sport is just beginning.

“After the winter that my dad had with the wrestling team and of his U.S. Cellular stuff that was all over town I really have taken a liking to coaching and maybe this is the path I want to take,” Ayala said.

Ayala’s father Luis is the long-time boys soccer and wrestling coach at Foxcroft Academy. In February the Pony wrestling team won its third straight Class B North title and sixth of the eight regional crowns as well as 11 in 17 years under the elder Ayala. Luis Ayala was also named U.S. Cellular’s Most Valuable Coach, with part of the award criteria based on online voting as the community rallied behind him to encourage votes for the national honor.

“So that’s where my head is,” Tino Ayala said. “Maybe when I come back from school when I’m older, I can come back and maybe find an area where I can have my own teams.

“Actually in the winter where I go to school in Rindge is right next to Keene, N.H. and they have a wrestling team down there so I help out in the winter down there then and in the summer I’m up here,” he said about coaching high school wrestlers and youth soccer players.

“My dad’s a been a big role model so I kind of want to do that someday,” Ayala said.

Coaching involves more than X’s and O’s and for Ayala his soccer camp has given experience in off the field aspects of guiding young athletes.

“We still supplied the kids with a breakfast and lunch,” he said. “We usually use the (free) summer program that the school has. Seeing how the school shut down with all the construction we still had to manage and take care of the kids.”

Ayala said RSU 68 Kitchen Manager Kathleen Gregory “helped us out with getting food from SeDoMoCha before everyone left so we had a couple of boxes of snacks, carrots, apples and sandwiches so that was nice of her to really help out.”

He said the food boxes were stored at home and the items were brought in to feed the campers. “Some just don’t have the means to get a nice breakfast in,” Ayala said.

He said he works to keep Ayala Soccer Academy affordable while still having the week serve as a summer job to help pay for college. Ayala said for some participants the week will be the only summer camp they attend.

“Today we have a Subway party and yesterday we had a popsicle party,” he added about two camp treats.

“We have a week up in Greenville in two weeks,” Ayala said as his academy will be at the school field near Moosehead Lake from July 9-13. He said during the week between his soccer camps he will be again assisting at the annual Foxcroft Olympic Camp, working alongside his father and this year’s guest clinicians.

“So right now we have some pretty good numbers compared to last year,” Ayala said. “It’s about the same, around 25-30. Maybe I will be surprised again with another 25 kids showing up the first day but I’m still happy with whoever comes and how many.”

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
HELPING CAMPERS GET A KICK OUT OF SOCCER — Tino Ayala, a 2016 Foxcroft Academy graduate who will be starting his third year at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire in the fall, again held his Ayala Soccer Academy in Dover-Foxcroft this summer. About 60 students in kindergarten through grade 8 spent five days from June 25-29 learning about the sport, improving in skill and having fun.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
AYALA SOCCER ACADEMY — A record-high approximate total of 60 campers took part in the 2018 edition of the Ayala Soccer Academy in Dover-Foxcroft. With the SeDoMoCha School parking lot being rebuilt, participants played across Harrison Avenue at the Morton Avenue Municipal Building field and went inside the Foxcroft Academy gym during a day of rain. The camp is led by Tino Ayala, a 2016 Foxcroft Academy graduate, who is aspiring to go into the coaching ranks and follow in the footsteps of his father Luis, the long-time boys soccer and wrestling coach at Foxcroft Academy.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
SUMMER SOCCER — Teams of middle school school players huddle around Ayala Soccer Academy namesake Tino Ayala on June 29 during the last of the five days in Dover-Foxcroft. The camp will be held at the Greenville School field from July 9-13.

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