Kicking away at Nutley soccer camp

Joseph Faga might only be nine years old, entering the fourth grade at Roosevelt School in North Arlington.

But the young man has his soccer career already in tow.

“I don’t play any other sports,” Faga said. “I just play soccer. I tried the other sports and I just didn’t like them. I tried baseball and couldn’t do it. I tried soccer and I was really good at it.”

Faga was so good that he was invited to play for the prestigious Cedar Star Academy youth soccer program, a major stepping stone for aspiring local soccer standouts.

So when Faga had a chance recently to enhance his skills at the Nutley Youth Soccer Camp at the Nutley Oval, it was right down his alley.

“I think I needed help with my shooting,” Faga said. “I try to shoot with both feet. I was like terrible with my left foot, so I worked on that.”

Faga said that his favorite team is Manchester United and his favorite player is Man U’s star scorer Paul Pogba. Faga said that he might even die his hair different colors like Pogba.

“I’m glad I came here,” Faga said of the camp. “It was a lot of fun.”

Faga was one of approximately 75 boys and girls who participated in the camp, under the watchful eyes of both of Nutley High School’s head coaches, namely camp director Mike DiPiano (the head girls’ coach) and Tom Tolve (the head boys’ coach).

Finn Carney is 11 years old and he’s headed into the fifth grade at Yantacaw School in Nutley. The Nutley resident plays for two soccer programs, namely Nutley United and the Nutley Elite Soccer Association (NESA).

Finn’s favorite team is Tottenham Hotspur, but he doesn’t have a favorite player.

“This was a lot of fun because all my friends are here,” Carney said. “I can work on my speed. I need to get a little faster. But I’m happy to be here.”

David Dashkevich is also 11 years old and is headed into the seventh grade at the Nutley Middle School. He’s a fan of FC Barcelona and his favorite player is Lionel Messi, although Dashkevich has to be disappointed that Messi will not play when Barcelona visits MetLife Stadium later this year, due to Messi’s calf injury.

Dashkevich also plays for a club soccer team called TSF (The Sports Factory) based in Wayne. Dashkevich also plays baseball, but he loves playing soccer.

“I play baseball in my free time, but I concentrate on soccer,” Dashkevich said. “I came here to be with my friends, but I started working on different things, like passing with both feet. It’s really helped me.”

Not to be outdone, the girls had their place at the camp as well. The camp was evenly balanced with both boys and girls.

Shayla Kaufman is 10 years old and will enter the fifth grade at Yantacaw School next month. She’s a big fan of FC Barcelona and her favorite player is Arturo Vidal.

Shayla is also a product of the Cedar Star Academy and plays travel soccer for the Nutley travel team.

“It’s a lot of fun being here, because most kids don’t get an opportunity like this,” Kaufman said. “I’ve been coming every year. I feel like I improve every year.”

Kaufman said that she had a particular part of her game that needed improvement.

“I needed to work on my left foot and shooting with my left foot,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman was happy to see Zoe Steck as one of the camp counselors.
“I know she scored over 100 goals at Nutley (High School) and she now plays for UConn,” Kaufman said of Steck. “I think it’s great she’s here.”

And as for that left foot?

“I think I improved it and now I think I can score a lot of goals with it,” said Kaufman, maybe setting sights on Steck’s records with the Maroon Raiders.

Kaitlyn Liss is nine years old and she’s headed into the fourth grade at Radcliffe Elementary School in Nutley. She’s also a product of Nutley United and NESA. Her favorite soccer team is the World Cup champion United States Women’s National Team and her favorite player is Alex Morgan.

“This was a lot of fun, because they had a lot of fun games here,” Liss said. “It made me want to play soccer more. It taught me a lot of skills.”

For example, Liss said that she learned how to do a scissor kick, which is rarely used in conventional games.

“I still learned a lot of different skills and improved my game,” Liss said.

The same could be said for Liss’ good buddy Kasey Slomkowski, also nine and a fourth grader at Radcliffe. She also plays for Nutley United and was happy that Alex Morgan and the U.S. National Team won the World Cup.

“I learned a lot here,” Slomkowski said. “I learned to keep the ball close to you if there’s a defender nearby. I learned so much stuff that’s going to make me better.”

For DiPiano, that was music to his ears. It was the ninth time that he oversaw a youth soccer camp in town for boys and girls from first grade through eighth grade.

“We’ve branched out and we’re now getting kids from the neighboring towns like North Arlington and Belleville,” DiPiano said. “In Nutley, soccer is really growing. We have 17 different travel teams and 35 teams in Nutley Recreation. Kids are watching soccer all the time. You see jerseys here from all over. The sport is growing and we’ve benefitted from it. We want the kids who play multiple sports, because we want to keep the kids active. The kids are learning different skills. We even feature ‘The Skill of the Day.’”

Tolve likes what he saw from the youngsters.

“I like being here with the kids,” Tolve said. “It’s a different change of pace. The little kids, you don’t know what to expect, but they have different skill sets, so it’s a challenge. I have fun with the younger kids, because they want to play and they want to learn. Some have skill levels that are just incredible. They know how to play, The level of competition is getting better. It says a lot for the future.”

Tolve is amazed with how many kids playing soccer in Nutley.

“It’s only getting better,” Tolve said. “With the MLS and World Cup, more kids want to watch and play. You see the different jerseys out here, the Red Bulls, the European teams. It’s great to see. More kids are getting interested in the sport.”

It only means good things for soccer in Nutley and the surrounding towns.

“The kids love doing it and that’s the key,” DiPiano said.



More than 75 kids enjoyed themselves at the Nutley Youth Soccer Camp recently at the Nutley Oval. Photo by Jim Hague




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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”