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March 17, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina women’s soccer team conducted a clinic for Columbia area youth a few weeks ago at the Polo Road fields, an opportunity for the Gamecocks to work with Columbia United and the YMCA to promote the sport in the capitol city.

Close to 250 boys and girls ages three to 12 attended the two-hour “Spring Back Into Soccer” clinic and were treated to soccer skills sessions taught by members of the Gamecocks along with a special appearance by Cocky.

“I would like to say a big thank you to the USC Women’s Soccer program for coming out to help in our first `Spring Back Into Soccer’ clinic,” Columbia United Community Soccer Officer Colin Kent said of the effort. “This clinic was designed to give the recreational players that chance to really get excited for the up and coming spring season. The Gamecocks helped in this goal as it was clear that they were having as much fun as the kids. It’s fantastic to have players of this caliber helping out at these clinics.”

Team co-captains Kim Miller and Blakely Mattern recently spoke about the opportunity to work the Feb. 21 camp and the chance to teach kids the values of traditional football.

“I think it’s important that we go out in the community and do things like this because otherwise we wouldn’t have the amount of support that we get,” Matter commented after the clinic. “It’s nice to give back and thank those people. It’s cool to support soccer and see that many kids that want to play and be out there. When you get that amount of kids out there on a Saturday, it shows how much the game is growing, especially in Columbia.”

With such a large group of kids attending the clinic, the Gamecocks teamed up into 10 stations with groups of two teaching a specific skill. The kids were able to spend 10 minutes at a station before rotating to a different group of Gamecocks. The stations included focuses on dribbling, shooting, juggling, heading and passing. Miller teamed up with Gamecock newcomer Kortney Rhoades in a speed and agility station. Given their specific skill to work with, Miller and Rhoades came up with an obstacle course for the kids to maneuver through.

“I think everyone was surprised at how many people showed up,” Miller said. “There were kids as young as five years old, and it’s exciting to work with them. From the ones that aren’t old enough to follow instructions yet all the way up to the older kids, it was great to go out there and see them. They support us and look up to us because they want to be like us – being players for a college team.”

Miller, a physical education major, valued the chance to teach kids that passed through her station. The junior from Farmingdale, N.Y., is one of the most disciplined Gamecocks to go through the program and aspires to one day teach the sport as a career choice.

“It was an amazing experience, especially for me because I hope to be a coach one day,” Miller said. “I like working with kids. As a P.E. major, even though I think I want to coach at a collegiate level, working with kids is so much fun. Even if you have a bad day they always brighten your mood because they’re so happy all the time.”

Mattern agreed with Miller’s assessment regarding working with the kids and the excitement it brings.

“Kim was in her element,” Mattern said. “I’d like to think that one day maybe I’d coach, so it was nice to be able to run your own thing. I like little kids so it was nice to teach them something and have them be interested in what we were saying. Columbia United is a big club in this area, and they’ve been mostly coming to support us or coming to our games. They know about us and are a big part of our program. Hopefully they’ll come to some of our games in the fall because fans are part of the reason we’re so good at home.”

Indeed, the Gamecocks have been nearly unstoppable at Stone Stadium recently, posting a 23-2-5 record the past three years with the outpouring support from the community. However, fans will get the next chance to cheer on the Gamecocks with a spring exhibition game on Sunday, April 5 against Francis Marion.