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D.C. United conducts youth soccer clinic in Aldie

photoD.C. United player Robbie Russell performs a drill with Catherine McKinley, 7, of Ashburn, during a soccer clinic June 21 at Byrne’s Ridge Park in Aldie. Six members of D.C. United’s first team taught fundamental soccer skills to Loudoun Soccer club members ages 7-12.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny

For nearly 150 Loudoun youth soccer players, June 21 provided them a chance to not only practice with friends or teammates but also with professionals.

Six D.C. United players traveled to Byrne’s Ridge Park in Aldie to conduct a free soccer clinic Thursday evening for members of Loudoun Soccer.

The clinic, open to kids ages 7-12, is part of D.C. United’s “Community Soccer Series,” interactive clinics that take place throughout the Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland area. Thursday’s clinic was the fourth of five.

“For kids, it’s such a unique experience to interact with a professional athlete,” said Andrew Minucci, D.C. United’s Grassroots Marketing Coordinator and the main organizer of the event. Minucci said the event is a painless process to plan, and generally involves just connecting with local clubs, setting up registration and finding United players to host.

Players attend the events on a strictly volunteer basis, many more than once. For the Loudoun event, Robbie Russell, Kurt Morsink, Stephen King, Chris Korb, Lewis Neal and Daniel Woolard came out to give the kids a memorable summer night.

“The sport gives you so much, it’s important to give back,” said Russell, who was participating in his second outreach event.

The event started with a question and answer segment, where players fielded questions ranging from technique (“how do I get better at the left wing?”) to being a professional athlete (“how much money do you make?”).

The players then broke into groups based on age and practiced alongside the professionals while parents watched. The event concluded with the kids receiving autographs from all six players.

“It was awesome,” Kristine Baptiste said. Baptiste’s 7-year-old daughter, Maritza, participated in the clinic. “This was so, so nice for them to sponsor something like this and get all the kids from the local Loudoun soccer club out here.”

But the kids and parents weren’t the only ones who got something out of the event.

“It’s very refreshing,” Woolard said. “It makes the game not so much of a job. It kind of brings back the fun you had growing up and playing and reminds you of why you actually play the game.”

photoD.C. United player Lewis Neal guides Willem Sirmenis, 7, of South Riding, in drills.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
photoRyan Pendleton, 7, of Ashburn, participates in a drill with D.C. United players June 21.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
photoD.C. United player Lewis Neal conducts drills with young participants.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
photoEmma Wolff, 7, of Hamilton, center, participates in drills with D.C. United players at Byrne’s Ridge Park.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
photoD.C. United players Robbie Russell, right, and Lewis Neal autograph items for fans June 21.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
photoD.C. United player Kurt Morsink offers instructions during a soccer clinic at Byrne’s Ridge Park in Aldie.—Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
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