Local youngsters had the opportunity to hone their soccer skills - or in some cases be introduced to the sport - during a week-long clinic last week conducted by Gustine High coaches and sponsored by the city Recreation Department.

Gustine High coaches Octavio Martinez and Patricia Barriga led the instruction.

Barriga coached the 3/4-year-old players while Martinez coached ages 5-8.

Both said they want to be able to teach and watch the youngsters grow into athletes. One goal, they commented, was to simply promote soccer within the community because at times other sports are the main focus.

“We want to expose these kids and also the parents and town to the game of soccer” said Martinez.

“We also want to teach these kids how to play and have them also learn from our experiences and skill sets,” Barriga mentioned. 

During the duration of the camp the coaches went over the basics of handling the ball, shooting while going through cones and obstacles. Also they would incorporate conditioning while also having fun with it. 

While having this camp they wanted to introduce the sport and teach each individual player at a young age the basics and fundamentals of the game - in an enjoyable setting.

“I think it’s really important for them to play at a young age because this is the spot where it all begins for them to grow, get better and eventually fall in love with the game” Martinez told Mattos Newspapers.  

Barriga added, “It is important for these kids to play and learn from such a young age so they can grow and eventually one day we see them again when they enter high school soccer.”

Their love for the game and interest in sharing that passion was evident during the program.

“I just want to see them grow, we’re not necessarily expecting them to stick with soccer all the way until they get to us at the high school level” Martinez told Mattos Newspapers. “But we want to focus on the now and watch them improve from right when they stepped on that field the first day.”