Inaugural soccer camp a success

Posted 7/12/18

Hoping to give back to the community where he was enshrined into the Lee University Hall of Fame back in 2014, Dr. John Bratcher was overcome with joy with the turnout at his free South Cleveland …

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Inaugural soccer camp a success


Hoping to give back to the community where he was enshrined into the Lee University Hall of Fame back in 2014, Dr. John Bratcher was overcome with joy with the turnout at his free South Cleveland Soccer Mini Camp.

From Tuesday to Wednesday, a total of 26 campers ages 5-10 were able to learn basic soccer skills and play a handful of fun games at Blythe-Bower Elementary School.

The opportunity for parents to have their children participate in a free camp filled with lots of 1-on-1 interactions was a heartwarming sight, observers said.

“It means a lot to come out here and see my daughter get to learn some soccer skills in this camp and have fun,” said local parent Ray Girouard. “I was deployed for a long time and in the Army as a Ranger for 10 years.

“I missed eight years of my son’s life due to two deployments. Now, I get to start over with my daughter at 6 years old. It’s all a new experience for me and I am loving it.”

Bratcher’s camp comes at a fitting time as the World Cup Finals in Russia approaches this Saturday.

The chance to begin a new movement with the first free soccer camp in Bradley County was a sweet feeling for the coach who has a career collegiate record of 512-208-45 across four different squads over close to 40 years.

“I kept saying I want to do something in the community,” said the now-retired Bratcher. “I wanted to expose kids to soccer who may want to play it one day for no cost. I have been doing camps since 1976. This was only two days, but I am worn out. We all had a lot of fun.”

Campers enjoyed playing on the well-cut grass at Blythe-Bower and had numerous water breaks over the two hot mornings of camp lasting from 9:30-11:30 a.m.

All left with smiles too, especially as they were each given a free soccer ball and T-shirt donated by the sponsors.

Those who supported the first South Cleveland Soccer Mini Camp were: OneCall Foundation, TGS Team Sports (Travis Godfrey), Blythe-Bower Elementary School, Kwik Goal, American Challenge USA and Select Sport America.

“The sponsors gave us soccer balls, cones, shirts, ball bags and ball pumps,” Bratcher said. “OneCall Foundation, which I am the president of, spends a lot of time taking people to Jamaica and doing the same thing with kids over there who want to play soccer. They sent us a lot of equipment and paid for the shipping. It was amazing we could have this happen right in our own backyard in Cleveland.” 

In a day and age where sports often cost a lot of money to participate in or play at a select level, a good humanitarian act by Bratcher and several others was greatly appreciated.

“All of the coaches handled this camp well and spent time with each camper,” Girouard said. “I didn’t think my daughter would get this much out of the camp. I thought they were just going to be running around playing. We will definitely come back next year.”

A love for the game of soccer continues to spread throughout the United States and in Bradley County. 

Bratcher is gung-ho about keeping the camp going and growing.

“The kids really seemed to enjoy the camp,” Coach Bratcher said. “They really loved the games we played, like Robbery and King of the Circle. I want to thank all who came and helped out with the camp.”

Ginger Harness helped out at the camp, along with new Bearette head soccer coach Savannah (Neely) Edwards, Amanda Bonham-Green and McLain Yaworski.

"This community is growing," Harness said. "There are a lot of parents who want to get their kids involved. We can't wait to see what all is in store for years to come."


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