Arlington, VA

Oliver Freeman’s goal is to have at least one Arlingtonian on a World Cup-winning team by 2030.

Freeman’s soccer program, Love the Ball, is launching its first Arlington camp this summer in a partnership with the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

The four-day camp is planned to run from July 22-26 at Kenmore Middle School (202 S. Carlin Springs Road).

“Most of the time, we are doing soccer, but one thing that really interests me when we came to this country is soccer is not number one,” said Freeman. “It’s not the most important sport. Looking outside, I don’t see kids playing that. Back home in England, that’s all kids do.”

Every day is themed around a different country and technique, like a Brazil-themed day focused on dribbling or a Germany-themed day focused on passing. Freeman said kids are encouraged to wear clothing or colors from that country on those days.

The camp is aimed at kids ages 4-12 and costs $250 for full-day classes.

According to the program’s website, Freeman coached with the famous Chelsea Football Club in the U.K., coaching players in community sessions, holiday camps and advanced centers.

The Love the Ball program started in Britain in 2012 and came to the U.S. in 2016. Freeman said over the last few years they’ve seen growth and currently have 10 coaches working in about 20 schools throughout the region, but this is the first year the program has operated in Arlington.

Freeman said being chosen as a partner by the parks department is a strenuous process, but he’s hoping if this year goes well the program can expand with more camps. The partnership promotes Love the Ball through Arlington’s summer camp catalog and gives them access to the Kenmore Middle School field.

“I really hope to instill a love for the game,” Freeman said. “It’s not just a camp. Hopefully, they go home and start kicking the ball around. They have to do stuff on their own time if they’re going to be good at it.”

For the most part, Freeman said he’s also yielded to the American terminology of “soccer” rather than “football.”

“You have to choose your battles,” said Freeman. “Unfortunately, kids get too confused. If you say football, they’ll start trying to grab the ball. Sometimes I have kids from South America or Europe, and I call it football to them and their parents.”

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