U-7 Mint Hill soccer players scrimmage at the MHAA fields. Photo courtesy of Colleen Moss.

The Mint Hill Athletic Association has partnered with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to provide skill sessions and summer camps for young soccer players. Keenan Harward, known to MHAA players and parents at Coach K, is the soccer coordinator and a UNCC alumnus. He contacted the Charlotte soccer team for a partnership last spring.

The soccer coaches at MHAA are volunteers and usually parents. They are able to coach children, but may not have the skill set to show players how to maneuver the ball. The UNCC men’s soccer team can provide professional demonstrations and instruction, and the kids love it.

“These kids light up when they see it,” said Coach K. It is exciting for them to learn from advanced players.

Sessions are broken up into age groups. Players rotate stations to learn a variety of skills, and then they scrimmage each other.

“We’re getting the kids to use those skills. Now you’ve learned them, lets use them in a game,” said Coach K.

Kyle Gookins, assistant head coach for the Charlotte 49ers, said he and his team enjoy providing skill sessions for the Mint Hill community. Athletic teams at UNCC are expected to provide a minimum number of community service hours.

“Almost all of our guys surpass that. Our guys are active in the community almost every week,” said Gookins. “We usually donate the most community service hours for athletics.”

The Charlotte soccer team’s philosophy is that discipline in all areas of life will maintain a discipline on the field. Not only are the players active in their community, but they have a team GPA of 3.3 and they played in the NCAA championship game, coming in second to UNC Chapel Hill 0-1.

Mint Hill’s green and white colors match UNCC’s, making trips to Charlotte games fun for MHAA players. Coach K organizes game nights for Mint Hill players and families.

The 49ers are offering a summer soccer camp the last week of July. Players of all ages are invited to sign up. For more information visit www.mhaa.us.