As DaMarcus Beasley surveyed the facilities at Hefner Fields on Tuesday, he realized it was all new since he played soccer in Fort Wayne, not all that long ago.
Just back from South Africa, where he made his third World Cup go-round with the U.S. National Team, Beasley was in his hometown to check in on one of his “employees” and Fort Wayne's third edition of the Beasley National Soccer School summer camps, which run through Friday at the Plex.
“When I was here growing up, none of this was here,” Beasley said. “I was playing at Concordia (Theological Seminary). I grew up there. It was called the Pepsi League. The Fort Wayne Sports Club, I played there as well.
“Those were the only places you could play. Soccer wasn't big when I was growing up. It was nothing like this.”
Since he played in Fort Wayne in the '90s, soccer's popularity has exploded here and around the country. Now Beasley and his dad, Henry, are on a mission to build on the growth of the sport.
“They've had college teams here, national teams here, youth national teams. I mean, Fort Wayne's starting to get on the map as far as soccer goes,” Beasley said. “We have a great facility and complex here, so I'm happy my camps can be a part of it.”
Henry Beasley also just got back from South Africa after watching his son play at the highest level of competition for the third time, and now he's running his son's camps.
“It's funny. My dad works for me,” DaMarcus said with a laugh. “That's really cool to say. But he loves it. He coached me when I was in high school at South Side as an assistant coach.
“He loves the sport. He loves being around the kids, and he loves coaching. We thought he'd be a great asset to the camps. It's great for us and great for the kids.”
Henry was the perfect fit for the program, and he patrols the grounds at Hefner Fields with a smile and a clipboard outlining drills such as “the Gauntlet,” “Star Wars” and “one vs. one.”
“We show the kids things they don't normally see,” the elder Beasley said. “We're trying to develop maybe the next DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan or somebody like that.
“We make it fun for them. We don't want them out here, beating in their heads soccer this, soccer that.”
As much as he enjoys working with the little ones at Beasley's camps, Henry relishes the opportunity to watch his sons play – DaMarcus on the national team and Jamar in Major League Soccer – vuvuzelas or not.
“It was fascinating, awesome,” Henry said about watching DaMarcus play in South Africa. “I enjoy watching my kids play.
“I've heard that people over here were saying the vuvuzelas (plastic horns) were all they could hear on the TV. I just wasn't paying any attention to that. I was just into the game.”
Though DaMarcus brought one home with him, there aren't any vuvuzelas at Hefner Fields this week, but there are 85-100 kids learning soccer techniques, some of them wearing U.S. National Team jerseys.
For the Beasleys, their mission is well under way.