BILOXI-- A world class soccer player and his staff gave valuable pointers this week to Coast youngsters on how to improve their game.
Eric Wynalda, a three-time member of the U.S. mens national team that competed in the World Cup during the 90's, hosted about 60 soccer campers at the A.J. Holloway Sports Complex.
The former professional player in Germany and Major League Soccer was pleased with Thursday's turnout.
"We got the idea kind of late," Wynalda said. "One of the things about Biloxi that I've learned is that they really have a strong soccer community. People who really want to see the sport grow. It's an interesting time in America right now. The sport is growing so fast in so many places. It's not grass roots anymore. It's weeds. And Biloxi is one of those places."
Wynalda has enjoyed his first trip into Mississippi.
"It's been a great trip, getting to know the kids. It's been really nice. I love it when the kids say 'yes sir.' We don't get that in California. It kind of throws me off a little bit."
Wynalda has enjoyed seeing the sport of soccer grow over the years in the U.S. and the current World Cup in Brazil may be playing a huge part in its interest.
"What I've noticed is that during this World Cup craze if you will, the casual fans get to see the sport," he said. "There's this undercurrent now of soccer people who don't feel they have to hold up billboards to convince people this is a real sport. It's a natural part of the growth process. There are hot pockets where the sport sets in the community and they enjoy it and see the attributes of the sport. Not just for the health reasons but a lot of life lessons that come with the sport."
Camps such as the one this week can have a lasting impact on a child.
"With camps like this you get to meet a lot of good kids and hopefully have a positive influence on them. It's always good to actually know people who played the sport when they were a kid and something good happened at some point, regardless if that means you played in a World Cup or just became a better person because of the game. Those hidden messages are why we do stuff like this."
These days, Wynalda coaches the Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League.
Wynalda hopes to make this soccer camp an annual event and perhaps move it to the winter months.
"That's kind of the plan," said Wynalda. "We're kind of locked in. We want to come back and enjoy spreading the word. Whether their aspirations are to go to college or what have you, I just enjoy being part of the process."
Among those taking part in the week-long camp were Sidney Busby, Breanne Herrin and Gina Lowery. All three young ladies said they learned quite a bit, especially techniques.
"The camp taught me to be tougher," said Herrin.
"It's been a fun learning experience," said Busby. "The coaches are nice and supportive."
"They help you when you make a mistake," said Lowery. "They're very good."