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NFSA hosts Elites of soccer

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 6/15/23

ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School girls soccer coach Mike Pickett strides in and out of soccer drills amongst 40-50 elite level athletes at his recent summer Elite Soccer Camp endlessly …

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NFSA hosts Elites of soccer


ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School girls soccer coach Mike Pickett strides in and out of soccer drills amongst 40-50 elite level athletes at his recent summer Elite Soccer Camp endlessly correcting, encouraging and fine-tuning players from around the nation and even worldwide.

“We do soccer camp differently here because we get the best girls together and don’t just put a ball on the field and let them play,” said Pickett. “My goal is to teach the minutae of skills needed to be successful on the soccer field.”

Pickett, considered one of the best ever soccer coaches in Florida, if not the United States with his 11 state titles and handfuls of Gatorade and Florida Dairy Farmers players of years, including his daugher Carson, now a professional in the National Womens Soccer League with the Racing Louisville (KY) FC team.

“The key is what players do on their own,” said Pickett. “Elite players do the work on their own. Carson, starting in eighth grade, would get 1500 touches before she went to school at 5 A.M. every day.”

Pickett’s camp included several ball skill drills that were targeting exact ball movement skills in game time.

“Even at this level of soccer camp, the ball skills needed to be successful can still be taught here,” said Pickett. “Something as simple as a proper head ball directed a certain way is critical at the elite level.”

Pickett noted that ex-Spartan goalie Sarah Voigt, who excelled at Notre Dame, was on hand for his goalie campers with a handful of ex-players for Pickett, including Jamaica National Team standout Ashley Simms. Assistant St. Johns coach Brad Schmidt is also on the field

Pickett pointed out players from Flagler Palm Coast, Gainesville and, even Texas, that have come to St. Johns to get soccer coaching.

“I don’t recruit anyone for our program here, but players come here to be properly trained,” said Pickett. “Under the microscope we live under as recruiting goes, I don’t go after kids. Ironically, we get some of the best kids from programs around the nation, but they don’t ever play here. They just want to get better then they go home and excel. We give them the little things to win.”

Pickett had players executing a “smother trap” skill that involved taking an overhead ball, much like a football wide receiver catching passes over head, snapping it to a controlled stop and allowing a pivot and reverse field attack in the opposite direction.

“This is a skill that is never taught,” said Pickett. “It’s a very high level skill that is never taught.”

Pickett encouraged the practice to push each other.

“There is no playing around,” said Pickett. “We want to simulate real game situations so that the skill can be learned then when they see it in the game, it’s muscle memory. It’s up to the players to make it difficult here.”

Pickett’s elite camp started on Saturday with an afternoon skills session that was followed by an 8 p.m. scrimmage that wound up a 0-0 score with the very high skill and speed level very apparent.

“All I do is teach them soccer stuff that they were never taught when they were this tall,” said Pickett, putting a hand about waist high. “Other countries put their best coaches with their youngest kids so they get taught the basics very early. That’s why we have our elementary program here. We get 30-40 pre-K, kindergarten, first graders and second graders for nine weeks twice a year and all we do is touch the ball, we don’t scrimmage. We get them comfortable with the ball first.”