Lake Norman & Mooresville

Soccer coaches visit from across the pond

A pair of Everton Football Club youth coaches traveled more than 3,500 miles from Liverpool, England, to Huntersville to teach area children soccer skills at a local camp.

The English coaches, Phil Gibney and Lee Lockley, are in the country teaching two weeklong camps - one geared toward 7- to 11-year-olds that took place last week and another for 12- to 18-year-olds going on until Friday.

This comes as part of a partnership between the English Premier League club and Strikers Soccer Center, announced earlier this year.

Gibney and Lockley said they often travel across the world - going everywhere from Canada to India - teaching soccer clinics while also scouting to see if they can find the next soccer star like Wayne Rooney, who began his career at age 10 in Everton's youth team.

Gibney said their time in North Carolina has been excellent, especially because of the children.

"They listen and want to learn," he explained. "They take in what we're telling them and have shown us massive respect."

Lockley agreed, adding that he was impressed by the number of children - more than 100 - who came out for both camps.

"Their attitude has been fantastic," he said.

The Everton duo has focused on key soccer skills - such as dribbling, shooting, speed and agility - during the camps.

"We've put a good overall program for the children, but we've also tried to make it fun for them," said Lockley.

Gibney, who has been working with Everton for six years, said he's found a high level of youth "football" in the area.

"The majority of the kids here can play," he said. "It makes our job easier."

Gibney said soccer is bigger back at home mainly because they have fewer sports to choose from, explaining that kids can either play soccer, the national sport, or cricket.

"Children aren't exposed to as much," he said. "We don't really have basketball or ice hockey back in England."

But Lockley sees that gap narrowing in the near future with growing interest in the United States.

Gibney and Lockley will head back to Liverpool after wrapping up this week's camp, but the two have had interesting experiences here.

The two are both missing the early rounds of World Cup play and even experienced taunting by campers about English goalkeeper's Robert Green's mishap that allowed a goal against the U.S. national soccer team.

Lockley said the weather has also been interesting. Coming from temperatures in the 60s, the 90-degree weather was a bit hard to adjust to. Lockley said they have also enjoyed the storms that have rolled through the area, which they don't see much of in Liverpool.

Ian Steedman, Strikers Soccer Center's CEO, said having Gibney and Lockley has been a pleasure.

Gibney and Lockley's visit is just another step in the center's partnership with Everton, which aims to allow local children to see what it's like to play at the highest level of soccer.

The partnership originated when Steedman contacted family friend David Moyes, Everton's manager, about getting a player to come train at Everton's youth facility.

Although that original exchange fell through, a local player and his father - Tevenn and Patrick Roux - made the trip across the Atlantic earlier this year.

Steedman said his center is in the planning stages of taking a group to train at Everton's facilities and to watch live top-level soccer.

"It's all about the kids being inspired," he said.