Special Olympics New Jersey: Soccer Week at Camp Shriver

Last Week the New York Red Bulls helped Special Olympics New Jersey kickoff the 2014 session of Camp Shriver with Soccer Week.

“Camp Shriver is a summer sports camp the founder of Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, started in the 60s,” Casey Henderson, the Coach Services Manager for Special Olympics New Jersey said. “We continue the legacy of Camp Shriver in New Jersey with a six-week camp.”

Players from the New York Red Bulls First Team and Trainers from the Academy joined 73 athletes, ranging in ages 12-40, at Camp Shriver in Lawrence, NJ.

“That’s what our athletes love,” Henderson said, “to see the sport at it’s finest, at it’s best. For our athletes, to have instruction from trainers from the Red Bull Academy and professional soccer players is huge, because they are learning skills and techniques the right way. That’s what we want from them in their growth as athletes, because they do deserve the best training.”

Academy Trainers David Lako and Tiago Dos Santos put the athletes through their paces with a variety of skills, drills, and scrimmages.

“My favorite part,” Dos Santos said, “is being out here helping athletes, having fun, and enjoying the sport I’ve enjoyed for my entire life.”

“It’s a sport that transcends everything.” Lako added, “So its good that they’re out here doing everything that the sport has to offer.”

“It’s great working with the Red Bulls,” Henderson said. “You guys come out every year for the past few years and bring quite a crew of people.”

New York Red Bulls Goalkeeper Luis Robles and Defender Kosuke Kimura were two of the First Team players who joined the crew at Camp Shriver.

“Yesterday we did passing and shooting,” Kimura said, “and today we’re working on dribbling. I hope tomorrow we can work on more shooting so they can score more goals.”

The Camp Shriver athletes not only scored more goals, but they put a few past the current MLS saves leader, Robles.

“I guess I only have one unique skill,” Robles said, “and that’s to save the ball. So I stood in goal today and they pelted balls at me. I saved some, some went in, but nonetheless I think we had a lot of fun.”

For Robles and Kimura, their experience at Camp Shriver goes beyond soccer skills.

“We have a very unique platform as athletes to help and to influence” Robles said. “It’s important to be here. We’re based in New Jersey, in the New York City metro area, and we don’t want to be an organization that just takes. We want to be an organization that is very much a part of this community.”

“Some of our athletes they recognize the players from last year. If they come year after year, they feel like they are meeting old friends again,” Henderson said. “Our athletes tend to be a little more memorable and the players remember, when they come, who they’ve met before. That’s big, them reuniting with some of our athletes. We want the experience to be as impactful for the Red Bulls as it is for our athletes.”

For Kimura, who attended everyday of camp, it is always a memorable experience.

“I’ve been in the league for almost ten years,” Kimura said, “and I just love it. I enjoy my time with these athletes and I hope they keep playing soccer.”