Eagles Camp is about more than having fun

The FIFA World Cup has ended, but that doesn't stop the children participating in the Charlotte Eagles soccer camp last week from emulating their favorite soccer stars.

"I pretend like I'm Landon Donovan when we play," said Daniel Hixson, one of the participants in the camp for ages 5-14.

For camp director and Eagles forward Ben Page, the camp is about more than having fun.

"I feel like we can have a big impact in these kid's lives," he said. "Everyone needs someone to look up to."

The camp, which was held at Covenant Classical School in Concord July 12-16, taught soccer fundamentals to participants in the mornings and had mock world cup games in the afternoons.

The Eagles camps are for ages 5-14, with elite camps being held for children 10-16.

For the Eagles' players, the commitment and sacrifice is worth it.

"I love teaching these camps, I just want to give back for what I have been given in the past," said Page, a 5-foot-9 Woodstock, Ga., native.

The Eagles, who are a member of the United Soccer League's second division, use the camps to not only develop soccer skills but also to spread the message of Christianity.

"Everything has a deeper purpose, whether it's a sport or your everyday life," said Page.

The Eagles are owned by the nonprofit organization Missionary Athletes International, which owns other soccer teams - the Charlotte Lady Eagles, the Chicago Eagles and the Southern California Seahorses.

The Eagles' season lasts from April to August. They are currently third in the USL-2 standings with a 5-6-4 record as of July 16. The team will play the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Friday at Charlotte Christian Stadium.

The Eagles held a friendly against the Bolton Wanderers, an English Premier League team July 14.

The World Cup has made the camps more exciting for not just the kids, but for the Eagles staff.

"The kids know all the players and they go out there and pretend to be their favorite ones, it's really fun to watch" said Page.

Page is also hopeful that team U.S.A.'s performance in the international soccer tournament will contribute to further growth for the sport.

"I hope kids that have never played soccer before see the World Cup and want to be part of the sport," said Page.

For 11-year-old Jacob Bennett the camp was not just about soccer, it was also a place to make new friends.

"It's been great, we can come together and have fun while learning more about the game," he said.

For Page the message of the camp isn't about soccer - it's even simpler.

"We want these kids to be encouraged and feel confident on the field and off, but more importantly to know that every single one of them is loved."