The Calhoun boys soccer team came up one win short of a state title this past spring.
But instead of dwelling on the loss, the Jackets have gotten right back into preparing for next season this summer. The team got a little outside help this week as Tennessee Wesleyan assistant coach Martyn Blankley instructed a four-day camp.
Blankley, who has played professional soccer in England before playing and coaching at Tennessee Wesleyan, said he enjoyed the experience of working with the team.
“It’s been great,” said Blankley. “It’s refreshing to work with a team that enjoys soccer as much as they do. They were ready to learn and did a really good job this week.”
Calhoun coach Matt Rice said he was really happy that his team, which finished 20-3 en route to their Class AA state runner-up finish and a Region 7-AA title, has been willing to put in the work this summer after a tough end to their season in May.
“That’s what it takes in order to get better,” said Rice. “We can’t accept complacency, and these guys have come out this week and gotten better.
“Coach Blankley has a lot of experience in his playing and coaching career, and he’s come in and taught the guys a lot about game mentality and styles of play. The guys have given everything they have this week in order to learn and improve.”
Blankley, who started in the Manchester City developmental program as a young player, said there were several things he wanted to focus on this week with the Calhoun players.
“I spoke to coach (Rice), and he told me what they needed work on,” said Blankley. “We’ve worked on passing and moving the ball, pressuring defensively and shooting mainly. We got a lot of shots on goal the last couple days.”
The camp was from Monday through Thursday with sessions running from 9-11:30 a.m. each day. Along with the instruction, the players received a camp t-shirt and Blankley talked with them about playing collegiate soccer and what the recruiting process would involve.
Rice said it’s very encouraging to see his team sacrifice their time during the summer to come participate in camp.
“It’s a pleasure to coach guys like this,” said Rice. “They work hard and represent our program well. Their drive forward makes me want to push even harder as a coach.
“It would be a lot easier for them to just stay at home and relax this summer, but they’ve come out on some hot and rainy days and done a really good job this week.”
Rice said this summer is a lot about replacing a talented group of seniors from last year’s team and the underclassmen have stepped up so far to try and do that.
From an outsider’s point of view, Blankley said the Jackets have a lot of talent and can be a very good team.
“They’ve got a lot of good players, and there’s a lot of younger guys coming through,” said Blankley.
“There’s a good core of young kids, and they can go as far as they want to with this team.”
The camp wrapped up on Thursday with a scrimmage game, including Rice, Blankley and Calhoun assistant coaches.
The team led by Rice and assistant coach Jonathan Clark rallied back from a 4-1 deficit to post a 5-5 draw vs. Blankley and assistant coach Erwin Rivera’s team.