Courtesy Eliza Kedrov

Juniors Allan Feldman and Esha Gupta pose with kids attending their sports clinic, AE Soccer Training. After seeing sports camps shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, four LAHS students decided to create safe sports clinics to benefit young athletes around the Bay Area.

Free kicks and free throws: Students spearhead sports clinics

October 13, 2020

Among the many summer plans derailed due to COVID-19 were youth sports camps — long days of sweaty scrimmages, sack lunches and water gun fights seemed completely out of the question. However, four LAHS students recognized the need for these classic summer experiences and decided to launch COVID-safe sports clinics to benefit the community.

AE Soccer Training

Before AE Soccer Training was a sports clinic, it was an Instagram account where juniors Allan Feldman and Esha Gupta shared videos of themselves practicing. The two have known each other since seventh grade and have been training together since middle school. 

Esha has been playing soccer since she was three, but Allan, whose first experience at a camp discouraged him from continuing soccer, started later. At 11 years old, he had to catch up with kids who had been playing their whole lives. Both, however, share a love for soccer and a knowledge that stems from years of experience, two things that they wished to share with young kids when they created AE Soccer Training this spring.

His own lackluster introduction to soccer made Allan determined to give kids a good first experience with the sport. In March, he reached out to Esha with the idea of starting their own clinic. Though COVID-19 derailed their plans, they resolved to open up a camp once social distancing restrictions eased.

Before AE Soccer Training was a sports clinic, it was an Instagram account where juniors Allan Feldman and Esha Gupta shared videos of themselves practicing. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the two training partners repurposed their skills and experience to open up their own safe soccer clinics for local youth. (Courtesy Allan Feldman)

“I think it’s wonderful that they have the patience to do that,” Janetta Barber, whose daughter attends the clinic, said. “They’re promoting positivity, motivation, exercise, and good health.”

The hour-long sessions are held in groups over the weekend and individually during weekdays. Group sessions cost $30 per child and individual sessions cost $40. Though there are multiple age groups, the typical age range is five to eight years old. 

The kids begin with warm-ups like jumping jacks and high knees. Then, the session moves into drills like passing the ball, dribbling, agility and speed. At the end, they usually play a shooting game; for example, kids shoot the ball and try to hit the back of the net without the ball touching the ground.

During practice, COVID-19 guidelines are followed closely — kids wear masks while not exercising or drinking water, and they all stay six feet apart during drills. To further ensure safety, Allan and Esha sanitize their equipment before use.

Allan and Esha are looking to partner with organizations in East Palo Alto and use all the money AE Soccer Training raises to buy sports gear and smaller necessities for kids in low-income communities. So far, they have raised over $1,000. 

“We wanted to try to create opportunities in lower-income neighborhoods where kids aren’t really exposed to it because soccer can lead to great things,” Esha said.

While their first priority is ensuring that kids remain safe, Allan and Esha are hoping to hold a camp during Thanksgiving week or December break, provided Santa Clara County enters the Orange Tier for COVID-19 cases. A week-long camp would allow kids to practice multiple days in a row; repetition, Esha said, is the best way to learn.

“Our whole message is that you should try anything and explore new passions. It doesn’t matter what barriers you might have. There’s always going to be a way,” Esha said. “We genuinely just want to help people learn to love soccer the way we do.”

For more information on AE Soccer Training, email [email protected] or visit their website.

DA Basketball Clinics

Juniors Akshaan Ahuja and Dhruv Bhagavatula know firsthand how quarantine is affecting young athletes. As they watched their younger brothers beg to leave the house and play basketball again, Akshaan and Dhruv realized they had to do something to help. In July, they started DA Basketball Clinics to give young kids a classic camp experience, an opportunity to connect with friends and get a little bit of fresh air. 

Akshaan has been playing basketball since he was six, and Dhruv since he was seven. They’ve bonded over their passion for the sport in sixth grade when they were both on the All-Star team for the National Junior Basketball League, and now they play for the JV basketball team at LAHS.

They had been considering making a basketball clinic for several years, but it never seemed like the right time. This July, they were presented with the perfect opportunity. When most camps were canceled due to COVID-19, DA Basketball Clinics provided young kids with fun, socially distanced drills and games.

“They’re not used to standing six feet apart and not being able to play games they want to play,” Akshaan said. “For me, it’s just about compromise. How can we minimize proximity to each other as much as possible, while still giving these kids the fun time they want and deserve?” 

Instructors coach first- through third-graders, and each hour-long session costs $15. Though there are 20 kids overall, the sessions consist of eight to nine players to adhere to safety guidelines. Practices are usually held on Wednesdays and over the weekend.

A typical practice begins with a warm-up jog and some stretches. Then the kids move onto drills — dribbling, ball handling and shooting — staying six feet apart at all times. The practice usually ends with a small scrimmage where, in an effort to minimize contact, kids are paired up and only interact with their partner during the game.

Despite these restrictions, Dhruv and Akshaan try to make the clinic as enjoyable as possible, including offering sugary bribes to the young athletes. Akshaan’s favorite memory began when one of their players, who had never touched a basketball before, was struggling to make a shot. After Akshaan promised to buy a pack of gummy bears as a reward, the boy made the next three shots easily.

Though the money is currently going to their savings, Dhruv and Akshaan hope to donate some of the funds they raise to causes like firefighter relief or racial justice programs. In the future, they want to expand their program to include kids from different areas. 

“I think the main goal is to focus on the environment, and provide the opportunity for them to get out and exercise in a structured and regulated environment that is still safe for them,” DA Basketball Clinics coach junior Nikhil Pillai said. “It gives kids the opportunity to enjoy basketball and see how fun it can be. It encourages them to continue with it in the future as they grow older.”

For more information on DA Basketball Clinics, email [email protected].

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