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It’s 25 years and counting

Donnie Palmer, a former player at LaGrange High and LaGrange College, offers some instruction during the Jeff Geeter soccer camp. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
Akina Omae, who played at LaGrange Academy and LaGrange College, was one of the instructors during the Jeff Geeter soccer camp. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
Geeter

It’s been 25 years, and it’s still going strong.

When Jeff Geeter became the men’s and women’s soccer coach at LaGrange College, he decided to start a youth soccer camp, and the turnout the first few years was unspectacular.

“The first couple of years, we had maybe 15 kids,” Geeter said.

Things have changed.

As the camp wrapped up on Friday at the LaGrange College soccer complex, nearly 100 boys and girls were on the field learning the fine points of the sport from Geeter and an enthusiastic group of instructors.

“We’ve had such good turnouts the last several years, and I think this is the second-biggest group,” Geeter said. “The only year I can remember having more was either 2009 or 2010, and we had 114 kids, which was really almost too many. It’s been fun.”

Among the folks helping Geeter out were some of his former players, including Jase Crenshaw, Harry Hinson and Akina Omae, as well as women’s head coach Fred Wagenaar.

“Obviously Fred, Jase and Harry, those guys do a great job, and the players that come out and help do too,” Geeter said. “All I have to do is give them the workout in the morning, and we go over a couple of things, and that’s it. They really do a good job. When you have all those good folks like that, it really makes it easy. I just kind of move around and trouble-shoot, and interject things here and there.”

The camp was available to boys and girls ages 5 to 14, and Geeter hoped to help some of the younger players begin to develop the skills necessary to play the sport.

“That’s one of the things you do with the young kids, we play a lot of different tag games, chase games, just to get them starting to learn how to control their body,” Geeter said. “Until they control their body, they can’t control the ball.”

One thing Geeter always enjoys about the camp is the opportunity to see former players of his, many of whom have gone into coaching.

Just this past season, Crenshaw was the head coach of the Troup boys’ team, and Hinson was the girls’ coach at LaGrange High.

“I was talking about that in one of my classes, a leadership class, that I’ve lost track of the number of people I either coached or who worked as my assistant that are head high-school or college coaches, or have been,” Geeter said. “It’s gratifying. You look at one way, and maybe I had a little effect on that, or it could be if that idiot can hold down a job, it can’t be that hard.”

Geeter was the men’s head coach for 24 seasons, and he also had two separate stints as the women’s coach that spanned 13 years.

The 2013 season was Geeter’s final one as a soccer coach at the school, and since then he has been the school’s strength and conditioning coordinator.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Geeter said of his new position. “It’s been great fun being able to really get to know some of the kids on the other teams. You know them passing them in the hall when you say hey to them.”

Geeter is working with athletes in most of the sports at the school, and along with football coach David Shonts he teaches a weight-lifting class.

“Some days in the fall, I might have five, six seven workouts in a day,” Geeter said. “Just about the time you put on a dry shirt from the last one, you have to turn around and get going on another one.”

Geeter said that over the years, weight lifting has become a key part of the training process for teams across the sports spectrum.

“Different sports have taken longer to get to weight training,” Geeter said. “Some of them, the school they came out of stressed it, and others didn’t. Some come in with a good background, some you’re starting at ground zero with them. The thing about it is, strength training does so much. I got pretty seriously into weight training when I was a player, and it made a huge difference for me.”

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports