Youths get a kick out of clinic
Participation in Kansas City Wizards soccer clinic skyrockets
Veteran forward Mo Johnston of the Kansas City Wizards took a quick poll with a group of girls at the KC Wizards/KCKCC soccer camp Thursday night at Chieftain Park.
"How many of you like basketball?" Johnston said.
Only two arms went into the air after a unanimous vote for soccer moments before.
Apparently many youths between the ages of 5 and and 18 agreed. Tonganoxie Parks and Recreation Commission director Mark Zerrer said that 105 area soccer players participated in the two-night clinic, up 15 from last year's attendance.
"This is our biggest year," Zerrer said.
The clinic involved instruction from KCKCC coach Gerald McGonagle and other Wizards, including Nick Garcia. Clinic participants also had chances to take pictures and get autographs from the players, and received clinic T-shirts as well.
This is the fifth year the camp has been in Tonganoxie. Tonganoxie Parks and Recreation chairman Ken Mark, who is an instructor at Kansas City Kansas Community College, brought the clinic to Tonganoxie with the help of KCK soccer coach McGonagle, who knew Johnston.
The clinic has been an ongoing success, but the Wizards' recent success probably didn't hurt attendance this year. Kansas City won its first MLS Cup last year. The team is 9-10-2 this year.
"It was great for the community," Johnston said about the Cup coming to Kansas City.
Tonganoxie, meanwhile, welcomed Johnston and his fellow Wizards back in the middle of their season.
The clinic might seem like bad timing to some, but Johnston said it couldn't have come at a better time.
"It's a sort of relaxation time," Johnston said. "I like to give something back to the community."
Johnston appears to have given back on the field. As a forward, Johnston is a three-time All-Star (1996-98), is the league's 22nd all-time leading scorer with 85 points (30 goals, 25 assists), is 14th all-time in shots (260) and 13th in shots on goal (132). Johnston was also named team MVP in 1998 and 1999, and reached his 10,000-minute milestone (eighth player all-time) against Miami on April 29. He also registered the assist on the MLS Cup-winning goal by Miklos Molnar against Los Angeles last year.
The Scotland native had numerous experiences before joining the Wizards in 1996. Johnston, the only member left the inaugural roster, started his career in 1980 with a professional team in England. His stint in Europe also included stops in France and Scotland, and was a member of the Scottish National team in 1984-91.
After all of his professional experience, Johnston still appreciates the simple things.
"We want to teach them things, but we want them to have fun," Johnston said about the clinic participants. "We like to put smiles on their faces."
The clinic will continue to be a unique opportunity for Tonganoxie for as long as the city allows it, Johnston said.
"We'll do it until they decide they don't want us to come back," Johnston said.