Free Clinics Blossom into Opportunity for Men's Soccer

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SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. -- What began as an opportunity to connect with local soccer clubs in the area and to promote John Brown University, the free men's soccer youth clinics have become a success far beyond what head coach Scott Marksberry could have imagined.

Referencing earlier times as a youth with a bright and malleable future, Marksberry encouraged his players, which would be the axis of the clinics' success, to recall a time in their childhood where they were positively impacted when training with a college or professional soccer player. Three years later, the free community clinics have become a roaring success.

The Monday-afternoon clinics run during the spring semester. The goals for the men's soccer program included partnering with the Siloam Springs Futbol Club, to connect players to the local community, teach soccer skills to the kids and to continue building a platform for sharing the gospel through the sport of soccer.

The partnership with the SSFC offered each recreation and competitive teams, ages 4-13, an intimate opportunity to train with collegiate soccer players. The response become more than even Marksberry anticipated.

"This year, the number of players attending caused us to use both the game and practice fields," Marksberry admitted. "Some of the players from the womens soccer team also began to help so that we could manage the numbers a bit better.

"The first clinic each year is pretty overwhelming. When over 200 kids come running down the hill to our field for the first time, the guys from our team look a little panicked. We go through introductions of our players on the first day, so that the kids can see how many states and countries are represented within our team. Once the soccer begins, though, I think our guys have as much fun as the kids!"

Clinics typically range between 150 and 200 kids at each session, which are grouped by age. Then, the under-8 and older groups are divided by gender. The kids who attend interact with the same coaches each week so that the JBU student-athletes can learn names and develop relationships with local families.

Additionally, Marksberry takes time with the volunteer coaches from the SSFC, and provides a weekly Coaching Notes planning session that the volunteers can use in their own training sessions and matches.

Ultimately, it's all aimed at building a relationship with the players and families.

"The kids who come to our clinics are, arguably, the best fans that we have during our fall season," Marksberry added. "Many of them come to all of our home games, and their families rally behind the players who were coaching in their specific age group. This partnership with SSFC has led to an annual SSFC Night during our fall season, in which kids accompany our starting lineups onto the field, and games during the halftime break."

As an added side benefit of the successful venture, many of Marksberry's players are now serving as volunteer coaches in the SSFC recreation leagues. The continuation of building relationships continues even beyond the clinics.

In an effort to build on John Brown University's mission, the men's soccer program also integrates faith into its lessons.

"Many of the kids from these clinics also attend our summer camp, where we have the chance to dig into a Bible story each year," noted Marksberry. "We have an opportunity to see how the story of Jesus should influence the way that we live our lives.

The clinics have also sprouted into the program teaching the local homeschool physical education classes each April. Also in its third year, 60-80 homeschooled students enjoy learning more about soccer, and have the chance to hear a men's soccer player share a testimony or a lesson from the Bible.

The 2016 SSFC Night has yet to be determined for the upcoming season. To register for this summer's Golden Eagle Soccer academy, click here.

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