The Bulldogs had 29 players participate in the four-day camp.
Soccer player Emma Swearingen sat on the bleachers at Flagler Palm Coast’s back field, munching on a slice of pizza and drinking a Gatorade.
Other than the full scrimmage scheduled later that evening on June 16, the rising senior had just finished her final FPC “Go To Goal” camp, run by Bulldogs girls soccer coach Pete Hald.
“I did this when I was a middle schooler. It’s always very fun.”
“I think I’ve done this for five years,” the defender/midfielder said of the four-day camp. “I did this when I was a middle schooler. It’s always very fun.”
Swearingen said she was a rising eighth grader the first year she participated in the team camp. Hald asked her sister, Megan Swearingen, who graduated this year, if Emma would be able to handle it.
“My sister was like, ‘Yeah!’ I was excited to do it every year,” Emma Swearingen said.
This year, despite triple-digit heat indexes, camp numbers were up, Hald and assistant coach Cat Bradley said. Twenty-nine current and potential future FPC girls soccer players participated, including forward Kaitlyn Steiner, who was limited as she recovers from ACL surgery.
“I don’t know if it’s the most campers we’ve had, but it’s close to it,” Hald said. “Last year — and we blame some of it on COVID — we were only at 18. We had at least 10 more (this year), which made it a much better camp.”
The camp participants included FPC’s current players plus three rising eighth graders and four or five rising freshmen, Hald said.
“It was really cool,” Bradley said, “to see some of our rising seniors motivate some of our rising freshmen, our sophomores. The energy was super high compared to some past years.”
Hald said the camp gives all the players a chance to train together and introduces the younger players to the team's schemes and routines.
“We did a lot of combination drills, combining different skills together. Everybody gets a lot of touches. Considering the heat, they worked hard. They had a lot of energy. I’m very, very pleased with their effort.”
“We did a lot of combination drills, combining different skills together,” he said. “Everybody gets a lot of touches. Considering the heat, they worked hard. They had a lot of energy. I’m very, very pleased with their effort.”
Rising junior Savannah O’Grady won the juggling competition with 180 consecutive touches. Rising senior Hailey Tucker juggled 105 times without a miss. And rising eighth grader Ivy Chen had 90 consecutive touches.
“This is my first time doing the camp, because normally I do cross country,” O’Grady said. “So, this has been a really great experience for me. Coach Hald really does run a good camp. It’s stuff that we do in practice, but it’s just like in a whole group, so we’re able to get to know each other more.”
Said Tucker: “Coach Hald takes us back to the basics of everything. Each day he goes over a new skill.”
Hald is entering his 32nd year as FPC’s head coach. He won his 500th game with the program this past season. He said he plans to continue coaching the Bulldogs as long as he’s still teaching at the school.
The Bulldogs are active throughout the summer, participating in the weekly 7v7 Flagler Soccer League and holding summer conditioning sessions. But the centerpiece of the summer is the camp.
“I’m very happy with these younger players,” Hald said. “That’s why this camp is important. The more younger, new kids get involved, the broader the program is. Numbers drive talent. The more numbers you have, the more kids work harder to get to the top.”
Bradley was impressed as well by the participation.
“We had a weight room session, and I was claustrophobic because the weight room was so packed with girls soccer players,” she said. “The drive is there for all the girls. The difference between last year and this year is large. I’m excited.”