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Comprehensive Airman Fitness: British soccer coaches teach Fairchild youth

Anthony O’Brien, British soccer coach, runs practice drills with Fairchild youth Aug. 10. The Fairchild Youth Center partners with U.K.-based Challenger Sports to bring the British coaches to the base in an effort to broaden thier soccer and worldly knowledge. (U.S. Air Force photos/Staff Sgt. Michael Means)

Anthony O’Brien, British soccer coach, runs practice drills with youth during a soccer camp Aug. 10, 2011, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The Fairchild AFB youth center partners with U.K.-based company, Challenger Sports, to bring the British coaches to the base in an effort to broaden thier soccer knowledge. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Michael Means)

Sara Marshall prepares to kick a soccer ball Aug. 10. She, along with other Fairchild youth, were being instructed by British soccer coaches. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael Means)

Sara Marshall, military family member, prepares to kick a soccer ball Aug. 10, 2011, during a soccer camp at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. She, along with other Fairchild youth, were being instructed by British soccer coaches in the camp. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael Means)

O’Brien takes a moment to get to know the kids before they start their soccer session Aug. 10. (U.S. Air Force photos/Staff Sgt. Michael Means)

Anthony O’Brien, British soccer coach, talks with youth participants in a soccer camp they start their training Aug. 10, 2011, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Michael Means)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- An international influence in the "world's most popular game" came to town when Fairchild AFB's youth programs hosted a British soccer camp for base youth Aug. 8 to 12.

This was the fourth year the base has offered the camp for Fairchild youth during summer months. Challenger Sports, a United Kingdom-based company, approached the base in 2008 with the idea of providing summer soccer camps. The initiative took off from there.

"We had preliminary discussions with Challenger Sports about the camp and what they offered," said John Smith, 92nd Force Support Squadron youth programs chief.

"Following the discussions, we felt their philosophy of youth skill development was in-line with what we do in Air Force Youth Sports Programs so we decided to bring them on, and so far, all the camps have been a big hit with the kids."

2011's camp was for youth ages 3 to 16, and was broken down into several age groups and lengths of time. The children participated in camp each day, and the week culminated with a special event on the last day of camp where the instructors had a mini "World Cup Match" with children and teams representing different countries around the world.

"The instructors are all from the U.K. and have experience playing for British club teams," Smith said. "They are put through a serious training regimen prior to being placed in the program through Challenger Sports and then they travel throughout the U.S. to various locations for a week at a time -- including Fairchild. The coaches were placed with 'host' families whose children participated in the camps, which also made this a very unique arrangement."

The British instructors said they enjoyed coaching Fairchild's youth.

"This is a good way to get out of the U.K. for the summer and travel to the U.S. to teach kids our soccer practices," said Anthony O'Brien, a Liverpool, England, native. "I've been playing soccer since I could walk so I like passing on my knowledge to these kids. It's different coaching the kids at Fairchild because a lot of them are world-traveled and they are also pretty disciplined -- it's been smashing [terrific] for me to learn new cultures."

Parents also said the program is a good fit for Fairchild's youth.

"The British coaches brought something different," said Molly Marshall, parent and a major with the 141st Air Refueling Wing. "They brought, of course their distinctive accent, but also taught the kids sportsmanship with excitement and humor. They really identified with them -- it's amazing what they learned in such a limited time."

Eight-year-old Sara, Marshall's daughter, was glad to have shared her experience with the British coaches.

"I think it's cool they traveled so far to help us," she said. "They helped me and I liked the way they talked."

All in all, the soccer camp went well for the children and coaches, they said.

"I think this was a great opportunity for our kids," Smith said. "They got to experience a high-quality form of instruction from people with a different culture. So, not only were they exposed to excellent skill development in an international forum, but they also learned to appreciate the efforts of other countries -- a win-win for all."

Events such as the British soccer camp are part of efforts throughout Air Mobility Command bases in building the Comprehensive Airman Fitness, or CAF, culture. CAF is a methodology that allows AMC to focus its efforts to take care of Airmen and their families, providing for their physical, mental, and social fitness, officials said. The intent is to create and sustain communities on AMC installations that give Airmen and their families a sense of belonging to the Air Force community, in which they live, work, and play.