For the past three years, soccer coach Gavin Asteghene has come to Hinesville to teach young players how to up their games.
This week, Asteghene once again has been at James Brown Park, as roughly 50 participants received hands-on training from the 2013 Georgia State Soccer Coach of the Year and his coaching staff.
Asteghene, the owner of Atlanta Calcio Academy, has close ties with Empoli Football Club and several other professional teams in Italy. Each year, Asteghene offers training camps throughout the state, training kids in the proper techniques and footwork necessary to make it to the professional level.
Helping him this year are two former youth players he trained. Mike Ceidel and Jason Christie were among the few younger players the coach took to Italy to receive professional training. Ceidel played on Asteghene’s 7-and-younger team, while Christie was on the 12-and-younger squad. Both played well enough to attend the elite Empoli FC Academy in Italy for a year.
Now adults, the two are helping Asteghene train a future generation of players.
“I’m just out here teaching the beautiful sport of soccer in south Georgia,” said Ceidel, a native of Atlanta.
Ceidel said his parents are from Colombia, another country known for its soccer players. He said he wants to teach the children that finesse is far greater than raw power when it comes to playing the game.
“A lot of the kids believe that strength and speed is the No. 1 priority,” he said. “But in soccer, there should be no messy passes … those principles are not as important as being fundamentally sound and knowing the basics. If you can perfect that, you can play soccer no matter how big or how fast you are.”
Christie said the year he spent in Italy as a child was a fantastic opportunity.
“It was a great experience, and I learned a lot,” he said and agreed with Ceidel that technical ability is the emphasis of their training.
“Technical ability … soundness with the first touch, passing, dribbling, all the basics,” Christie said. “We are trying to get them to be more technically sound.”
The camp was hosted by the Hinesville Gators, and founder and coach Tom Sukaratana kept the campers hydrated, filling coolers with drinking water and providing sufficient breaks. The camp was scheduled from 9 a.m. until noon each day, but Sukaratana said the start time was moved to 8:30 a.m. to beat the heat.
Asteghene instructed the children through drills requiring precision footwork instead of speed. Players paired up within age groups, and they worked relentlessly on perfecting their skills despite the heat.
At the end of each session, the kids were drenched but satisfied, knowing they made huge strides.
Asteghene scouts up-and-coming players at each camp, and each year selects players for a trip to Florence, Italy, to tour training camps and train and live like professional players for a week.
The camp runs through Thursday.