Girls get kick out of camp

GEORGE GROSS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

It is now an accepted fact that girls and women in Canada take to soccer with much more enthusiasm than their male counterparts.

The latest example was a special girls' four-day training camp, courtesy of Joe Parolini, former general manager of the Toronto Blizzard, who, at his own expense, imported the head coach of Italy's women's national soccer team -- Carolina Morace -- and the assistant coach -- Betty Bavagnoli -- to give talented local teenage girls lessons in basic soccer strategy.

"It was simply amazing to see these young ladies actually wanting to get up early during March Break to go to a soccer camp, instead of sleeping in" Parolini said. "Both Carolina and Betty worked with them on the methodology of soccer.

"Their main areas are more technical and especially tactical. They explained and showed the girls the three methods of attacking. They showed them how, where and when to put the pressure on the opponent. They taught them tactics with or without the ball, plus different and fun speed, agility and concentration drills to help them to become complete players."

The way the two star Italian players lectured the local girls and demonstrated the skills the youngsters will need to acquire, it appeared there was never a moment of boredom and the smiles on the girls' faces told the whole story when camp ended Friday night. It became evident that for young female players a female mentor can accomplish far more than any male coach.

"I liked the camp," said 17-year-old Nikki Matarazzo, who plays for Bolton Wanderers under-21 team and also for the Toronto Lynx reserve squad. "Training with two female coaches is vastly different. They have different drills and they also have a lot of patience with the players."

The Huron Heights Secondary School senior, who plans to study and play soccer either at University of Western Ontario or Queen's next year, has been kicking the ball around for a dozen years, thanks to encouragement from her parents Jeanette and Rino.

Needless to say, Nikki is enjoying every minute of it.

Sharing Nikki's enthusiasm for the soccer camp is 15-year-old Ashley Tait, a Grade 9 student at Teac High School. The aggressive striker admitted without hesitation that she enjoys watching the net bulge after one of her powerful kicks.

"I like scoring goals," the youngster admitted. "Most of my goals come off my right foot, but I've also scored with my head. I learned a lot at this camp. I adapted fakes, turns and how to turn away from pressure. That's what American Mia Hamm does and she's my favourite player."

When some of these youngsters graduate to Canada's national women's soccer team, Joe Parolini will be entitled to take a bow.

CORNER KICKS

The winner of UEFA's Euro 2008 soccer championship will receive $10 million US, the runner-up gets $7 million ... The official mascots for the tournament, which will be held in Austria and Switzerland from June 7-29, are Trix and Flix. The matches will be played in Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland, and in Innsbruck, Salzburg, Klagenfurt and Vienna in Austria ... The Viennese stadium where the final is to be held is named after a former Austrian ace defender Ernst Happel and seats 53,000 ... Former stars conducted the tournament draw, including Germans Franz Beckenbauer and Jurgen Klinsmann, as well as Italy's Dino Zoff and Theodoros Zagorakis of Greece ... The 16 teams play in four groups: Switzerland, Czech Republic, Portugal and Turkey in Group A; Austria, Croatia, Germany and Poland in Group B; Netherlands, Italy, Romania and France in Group C; and Greece, Sweden, Spain and Russia in Group D ... The 14-panel tournament ball, named the Europass, is made by Adidas.


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