With the season winding down and the team having already qualified for the MAAC Tournament, the Fairfield women’s soccer team has its eyes set on winning their last two conference games and potentially winning the regular season title.
But this past Sunday, they set their eyes on another goal: trying to get their individual groups of rowdy young children to learn the basic skills of soccer, and most importantly, to have fun while doing so.

The Mini Stags program started this year with the collaboration between the team and a few local mothers as a skill-building program for local youngsters to come and learn from the players. There are currently no organized developmental soccer camps for the kids in town, making this program a key learning experience for many of the boys and girls.

About 150 children from the town of Fairfield currently participate in the program, which has been going on since the beginning of the season in September. The six week program is run by the entire women’s soccer team, with all 31 members helping alongside the coaches in an attempt to teach the children the basics of the game.

The camp, which ran on Sundays and was setup in part to encourage the families to attend the women’s soccer games on campus, introduced the children to the basics of ball handling, passing, and shooting, as taught by the players. However, the drills were kept light, with the main emphasis of the camp remaining on having fun while playing the game, something that even the most novice of players understood and followed whole-heartedly.

With this being the first year of the program, women’s soccer Head Coach Jim O’Brien is very pleased with the way everything has gone so far, including the planning and organizing, as well as players’ efforts to help the kids as much as possible. O’Brien said that he hopes to continue the program in the spring and into the coming years.

Almost as important as what the kids got from the players is what the players learned from the kids in their groups.
“[The players] really enjoy it. They love working with the kids,” said O’Brien. “They look forward to the kids coming in, and the kids look forward to working with their coach on a weekly basis.”

One of the ideas that has worked the best, according to O’Brien, is allowing the same group of two or three players to stick with the same group of children throughout the six weeks. This has, in turn, forged relationships that the children and players will remember for years to come.

Coach O’Brien also hopes that the players learn “a sense of community, a sense of giving back” from these sessions.
“They’ve got a great gift with their soccer talent, and they have the opportunity to pursue their education at a school like Fairfield. It’s more of the Jesuit philosophy of community and giving back, and it’s worked out really well.”

The Stags’ focus should be on the present this coming weekend, as they look to beat defeat both St. Peter’s and Manhattan, both at home, en route to their first potential MAAC regular season championship since 2002.

However, maybe a small part of their minds could be on the relationships they have shaped with these kids over the past weeks, and on the somewhat distant future. Because who knows, they might have just taught future Stags the fundamentals for winning a MAAC Championship of their own 12 years from now.

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