Written by: Ben Atlas
This summer, junior Arjun Parikh founded Laces Soccer Camp (LSC), a camp that offers instruction to children ages seven to 14, at Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School and Cubberly North Community Center. Co-founders and coaches included juniors from Gunn, Monta Vista, Palo Alto High School as well as Woodside Priory School. LSC is designed to teach soccer fundamentals to its students, while also donating proceeds to charity and offering scholarships to underprivileged applicants.
The brainchild and dream of Parikh originated two years ago but it didn’t become an achieved idea until this summer. “I didn’t think it was possible for me to start a camp as a kid so I didn’t really act on it,” Parikh said. “I got moving on the idea in August 2011. It moved pretty slowly for a couple months, but then it went full speed ahead starting in November.” When their dream finally became a reality, Parikh and the co-founders wanted to take a novel approach to working with younger children. With a large number of dedicated coaches, it was easier to give each pupil the attention he or she needed. “If we see something that we feel a player needs to improve on, we’ll be on that for the whole week,” Parikh said. “We have so many coaches there and a small number of players, so the coaches can really get to know the player and help them improve.”
A driving force behind the philosophy of LSC is charity. All proceeds are donated to a charity called Right to Play. Right to Play provides opportunities for children in underprivileged areas to engage in various athletic activities. Even more importantly, Right to Play uses games to help educate children about diseases that are often widespread in their countries, such as HIV and AIDS. Based in undeveloped countries all over the world, the charity has experienced a great deal of success due to the donations of organizations like LSC.
LSC also does charity work of its own in Palo Alto as well. “We offer scholarships to kids who can’t pay,” Parikh said. “There really isn’t anything about the camp that doesn’t help someone in some way, whether it be kids in our community or kids in third world countries.”
Although the idea was originally Parikh’s, friends quickly joined his effort to create LSC. Enough manpower was gathered to offer three five-day sessions, each from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. According to cofounder junior Paco Covarrubias, the day at LSC starts at 8 a.m. with a brief warm up, followed by group drills focused on specific aspects of the game. Each drill builds on the previous one and attempts to emphasize an important skill that is developed each day. After a break, the campers play abbreviated soccer games until noon. The day ends with a review session on what each individual should be practicing at home.
“We make a huge deal out of hard work and practicing on your own,” said Parikh. Covarrubias described the overall experience as not only enjoyable but also morally rewarding. “What I have accomplished is becoming more patient with the kids and being a responsible role model because I see how they look up to me, and that feels good,” Covarrubias said.
An example of dedication put to constructive use, LSC has been a success by not only giving back to the community through charity but also by fostering improvement in each individual who joined the camp. “The sessions have been hugely successful. About 90% of the kids that attended said they’d like to come back next year,” Parikh said, “We’re all having a great time coaching together, and we’ve seen improvement from most of the kids.”