BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Pizzazz was not lacking on the final day of this year’s Shen Girls Soccer Camp, a July 17 session which combined tournament soccer with pageantry.
If that combination sounds akin to the World Cup, that’s by design. Each year, the last day of Holli Nirsberger’s camp starts with an Opening Ceremony parade of teams, dressed up in costumes to represent a country, and ends with an awards ceremony honoring the winning teams from the day’s four-team tournaments in divisions of girls ages 8-10 to 11-13.
Nirsberger — Shenendehowa’s varsity girls’ soccer head coach — said the final day always takes on a “life of its own,” but added the U.S. women’s team’s July 5 World Cup victory had likely helped to jazz it up even more than usual.
“There’s absolutely a bit of extra enthusiasm because of the recent World Cup,” Nirsberger said. “How could you not be excited about that?”
Each team at the camp gets a locale to represent, and costumes are designed to symbolize those choices to wear during the opening parade. Some teams handled this in a relatively low-key fashion, such as the older division’s Team USA which painted faces in red, white, and blue; others went much further, like the older division’s Team Brazil which saw counselor Jill Shippee — a rising junior on the varsity soccer team — dress up as if she was leading a safari and lead out her group of girls dressed as animals.
“Oh, no,” Shippee had called out at the start of her team’s procession. “The animals — they’re on the loose.”
Nirsberger has a variety of her program’s players working at the camp. Emma Smith is a rising senior on the program’s varsity squad, and has worked two summers at the camp she used to attend. She said the chance to work with some of area’s younger players is the best thing about the experience.
“We’re building relationships,” Smith said. “I know I looked up to the older girls (when I went to the camp), and now these girls are asking me a lot of questions.”
Sarah Monroe, 13, was attending the camp for the second consecutive year. On her own, Monroe plays travel soccer throughout the year, but she said the Shen Girls Soccer Camp is one of the highlights of her year.
“You learn a ton of new things between shooting and passing, and you get to meet new people — and I know at the end of the camp, we get to do the World Cup, and I like to dress up,” said Monroe, who will be an eighth-grader at Gowana Middle School.
Monroe was on a Team USA squad for the day. Her face painted with the country’s colors, Monroe also sported temporary USA tattoos, and had put the jersey number and name of national team star Alex Morgan on her white T-shirt.
“I play offense just like her,” Monroe said of Morgan.
Nirsberger said she had about 70 players on hand for the camp, which takes place alongside the Koda Middle School. While that number was not too much of a deviation from most years — the camp generally gets about 65 campers — the national team’s success at the most recent World Cup had helped to buoy the enthusiasm throughout the week, especially on the camp’s final day.
“It seems to be our best year costume-wise, so maybe that’s why,” Nirsberger said.
At the Shen Girls Soccer Camp, awards were given for top team and best costume in both the 8-10 and 11-13 age divisions:
Top team: Team Madagascar, Team Brazil
Best costume: Team USA, Team Australia