High school athletes that participate in the Wichita Police and Fire Summer Soccer Camp on Wednesday at Heights might leave with new attitude toward public safety workers.
Police officers Aaron Chafee, Mark McKee and Scott Rich and firefighter Larry Inlow each have experience at the college or professional levels of soccer, and will be on hand to coach and give advice of all kinds at the free camp.
"We try to develop some skills in terms of soccer, and we also talk to them about life and the workforce," Inlow said. "Then we have college coaches come out to talk to them about what they're looking for academically and what they're looking for in a college player. We just try to help them get a leg up."
Chaffee, who played for a semi-pro team in Boulder, Colo., is excited about the fact that the camp is free.
"My biggest motivation for doing this camp is, growing up I didn't have a lot of money," Chaffee said. "People would help me out as far as playing club soccer, but I couldn't do any camp because of the costs. It's a quality camp that would normally be in the hundreds of dollars — for free."
As part of a summer-long program, the Wichita Police and Fire Outreach Program put together a team that included area teachers and school administrators to play against high school teams in friendly matches.
"It definitely gets them excited, especially when they hear that it's the same guys that are putting on the camp," Heights coach Ryan Kelley said Wednesday after his team took the field against the outreach squad. "To hear that they were professional or semi-pro guys at one time during their career it makes guys excited about the opportunity that they might learn something that they haven't yet."
In the end, however, the camp leaders would like for the participants to go home with avenues for success other than soccer.
"Mainly, we're reaching out to these kids to say if you would like to be in the fire, police or school administrator business come talk to us," Inlow said. "We're here for them. We'd be more than happy to sit down and talk with them and plan stuff out. We're just get to reach them through soccer, which both sides seem to enjoy."
For Chaffee and others, sometimes just the opportunity to play with area students gives enough satisfaction to make everything worth it.
"It's good, the interaction we have with the kids," Chaffee said. "Especially from a law enforcement standpoint. I really think it's beneficial to the kids to see us out of uniform."