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LA Galaxy kickstarts youth soccer clinic

The professional soccer team Los Angeles Galaxy hosted a Claremont clinic on Wednesday, with more than 200 youth players between ages 5 and 14 turning up to receive world class coaching. The event signified the continuing efforts of the Claremont American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) and the LA Galaxy to develop talent and promote health in children of all ages.

Present at the event was Clint Mathis, first-year development academy coach and former US National Team and LA Galaxy striker. Mathis retired from soccer almost 3 years ago, and made the decision to become an academy coach in order to give back.

“Many kids only way out is through soccer, and it is my duty to give back to the [general] community after receiving so much from it at a younger age.” Mathis played for various Major League Soccer teams, beginning his first-team career in 1998 with LA and ending it back where he started.

Mathis talked about the US youth soccer programs in comparison with European programs, as he spent a year in each during his playing career at Hannover 96, Germany and Ergotelis FC, Greece. “We don’t compare to Europe; we’re behind but we’re catching up slowly.”

In Europe, it is customary for players to forgo school and concentrate only on “football,” while in America children are typically pushed into a variety of activities. As a result, American soccer players are a few years behind in development by the time they become serious about the sport.

This particular event was one day only, but the Galaxy holds 8-week clinics in 3 LA-area cities throughout the year. The team is hoping to add Claremont to that list, and local product Netza Bravo is pushing that concept.

“We divided the kids up into appropriate age groups today and worked with them on shooting and passing, before splitting them into teams for small-sided games against each other,” he said. Bravo is a fourth-year academy coach who graduated from the Bill Swartz-coached Pomona-Pitzer soccer program.

Also present were 2 players from the Galaxy first team. Sean Franklin is LA’s current right fullback and is competing for a national team spot. He’s in his fourth year after coming out of Cal State Northridge. Juninho is the Galaxy’s talisman behind David Beckham in central midfield. He began his career in the São Paulo, Brazil club youth team and is in his third year in Los Angeles, having scored 13 goals since he came on loan to the team.

The children also took away tickets to Saturday’s upcoming LA Galaxy game against Real Salt Lake. With these youth events, the Galaxy hopes to develop lifelong fans for their team, as well as training young players who might have a future competing at higher levels of play.

—Chris Oakley

sports@claremont-courier.com

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