EVERETT — Soccer balls popped in the air like popcorn Tuesday over the playfields along W. Casino Road.
Playful shouts rang out as children, coaches and police officers practiced their soccer skills.
It was cold, wet and windy, and many shivered underneath sweaters and coats. Almost every face was smiling.
This week marked another year for the Casino Road Futbol Academy, a soccer camp for children hosted by the Everett Police Department. For the first time this year, a second camp is planned in north Everett next week.
Hundreds of children, many of them from low-income homes in the Casino Road neighborhood, attend the camp. They practice soccer but also hear from police and other community leaders about the importance of education and the dangers of drugs, gangs and violence.
Most of the kids are too busy having fun to notice they’re learning life lessons.
Marcos Guerrero, 6, of Lynnwood was having a blast “doing soccer,” he said.
He was practicing making goals with his friend, Jared Arteaga, also 6.
“There’s cones, and you have to touch them and jump over them, and the ball’s right there, and you kick it,” Marcos said.
The first day of camp can be chaotic, but every player gets assigned to a team with at least two coaches, coaching director Pablo Mummey said. They get two meals and snacks each day.
“We have a lot of good little players, but we have a lot of kids that never played before either,” he said.
Twins Anel and Alondra Lopez, 9, munched on orange slices during a break.
“I got to play with my friends at passing the ball, and it was really fun,” Anel said.
Everett police Sgt. Manuel Garcia, a former professional soccer player, spearheads the program. On Tuesday, he led one team through stretching exercises and joked about how hard it was to defend the net while wearing a bullet-proof vest.
Running the camp wouldn’t be possible without the help of mothers from neighboring schools, Garcia said.
The mothers help serve the food, treat scrapes and keep things organized.
“They not only care about their own kids, but other kids as well,” Garcia said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org