“The reaction has been incredible. From just a little start-up to this, we’re growing at a rate I’ve never seen anything grow,” said Dault, who started the camp when a few youngsters on a team he was coaching said they couldn’t afford to attend a summer soccer camp.
“I said, ‘That’s not going to happen,’” Dault recalls. “I said, ‘I’m going to have a camp for you. You’re going to get a ball, and you’re going to get a T-shirt.’ That was on Tuesday. By Friday, we had 50 kids signed up. Two weeks later, we had the camp at Lakeshore Baptist Church and we had 267 kids there.”
This year’s camp will benefit from several former Grand Haven and Spring Lake high school soccer players returning to help out. Avery Steinlage, a SLHS graduate who recently wrapped up a stellar career as a goalie at Michigan State University, now plays semi-pro soccer with the FC Indiana Invaders. He’s bringing nearly his entire team to help out at the camp. Avery’s sister, Annie, recently completed her freshman year at MSU, and she’s bringing several Spartans’ teammates to volunteer as coaches.
Another former Laker, Lauren Gagnon, plays at Valparaiso. Dault said that Gagnon also plans to bring several teammates to Grand Haven for the camp.
“We have 120 coaches coming,” Dault said. “A lot of former and current Grand Haven and Spring Lake players are coming. We have a lot of good things going on this year.”
The camp is open to kids going into grades 2-8. Second through fourth graders meet from 9 a.m. until noon, while fifth through eighth graders meet from 1-4 p.m.
The camp caters to players of all skill levels.
“If you’re a first-year player, there’s going to be great instruction for you, and if you’re an advanced level premier player, there will be great skill instruction for you,” Dault said.
The camp is completely free for all who would like to participate. Several companies and individuals have donated money to make the camp possible, including title sponsor Shoreline Sport and Spine. The Tri-Cities Kiwanis club as well as the Tri-Cities Youth Soccer Association are also involved, Dault said.
The camp bears the name of Mike Herman, an outstanding soccer and basketball player at Grand Haven who tragically died in a traffic accident during his sophomore year.
“When I started, I said, ‘I can’t call this the free soccer cap for kids who don’t have money, so I called (Grand Haven varsity boys soccer coach) Aaron Dean and asked if he had any ideas,” Dault said. “He told me the story about Mike Herman, so I called up Mark and Judy Herman and asked if I could use Mike’s name in his honor, name the camp after their son, and they gave it their blessing.
“So we do a little story at camp, tell about Mike, so nobody ever forgets him.”
Anyone who would like to sign up for the Mike Herman Memorial Free Soccer Camp can do so by visiting mikehermansoccercamp.com.