HUNTINGTON – The announcement of Marshall University’s national championship in men’s soccer led to an increase in the numbers at this year’s soccer camp at MU.

While Chris Grassie, head coach of Thundering Herd men’s football, was pleased with the rise in numbers, his biggest focus was on one particular area – campers who were completely new to football.

Grassie said the influx of first-time football players was his biggest gain from the camp.

“I feel like we had some first-time soccer players that we always love,” said Grassie. “We try to foster this passion for the game with a spark from our championship run.

“You take those early soccer players, especially the young ones, and get them started, hopefully making the game a more permanent part of their lives.”

Grassie said the camp included more than 230 children between locations and was a collaboration between Marshall men’s soccer and Herd women’s soccer, led by Michael Swan.

Each day of the camp had a different theme, and Wednesday’s Green and White Day showed how the community has come to football since Marshall’s 1-0 win over Indiana in the national championship game.

Many of the campers chose to wear the national champion’s commemorative t-shirts as clothing for Green and White Day.

Grassie said the continued excitement about winning the championship was his favorite aspect of winning the title.

“One of my favorite experiences with this whole thing was hearing from people, especially the kids, who shared their experience of watching the championship and what it meant to them,” said Grassie. “Whether it’s ‘I was with my dad and mom’ or talking about chasing the field, it’s fantastic. They remember that experience of where they were and who they were with when they saw it. It’s the best part of everything, to be honest. These are the best moments. “

For Grassie and his staff, the educational aspect of football is critical to attracting more youngsters to the sport, but he added that the most important aspect of the week was a positive introduction to the sport.

“We do this every year and the philosophy stays the same: we want the kids to appreciate the game better than they did when they arrived and we want them to have a great time,” said Grassie. “Hopefully it’s one of those amazing experiences – we’re in the stadium, we’re playing with the Marshall players – and it kindles the flame of that initial passion for the game.”