ROPEs project brings stars to town

Dzantik'i Heeni student invites international soccer players to camp

Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2004

All Carly Lehnhart wanted to do was invite an international soccer star to town for a Juneau Soccer Club camp.

The Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School eighth-grader chose to make the invitation her ROPEs (Right of Passage Experience) project, and since then Lehnhart has learned about budgets, fund-raising and producing a brochure for the camp.

"I worked a lot on communicating with adults," Lehnhart said.

Next month, Lehnhart's project will come to fruition when two international soccer stars - U.S. National Team member Tiffeny Milbrett and Canadian National Team member Christine Sinclair - will come to town for the camp on June 8-10.

The camp, which is run by local coaches Amy Skilbred and Tom Rutecki, is geared for Juneau Soccer Club competitive team players. But there will be a clinic with Milbrett and Sinclair open to the public on Thursday night, June 10, and they're trying to schedule a special session for female players.

Milbrett, who is from Portland, Ore., will be the headline clinician at the camp. She scored the game-winning goal against China to lead the U.S. women's team to the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and she was U.S. Soccer's female athlete of the year for 2000 and 2001.

While she's not playing on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, Milbrett still is one of the top players in the U.S. Soccer program. Milbrett needs one more goal to become just the fifth women's player in world history to score 100 international goals.

Also coming to Juneau will be Sinclair, who is a student at the University of Portland, Milbrett's alma mater. Sinclair, who is from Burnaby, British Columbia, made her national team debut at age 16 and in 2002 she led Portland to the NCAA title. In the 2002 Gold Cup, Sinclair tied Milbrett and Charmaine Hooper as the tournament's top scorers with seven goals each.

"Tiffeny Milbrett said she wanted Christine Sinclair to come along, so we contacted her," Lehnhart said.

Lehnhart said she started the project in November, when she asked Zach Gordon Youth Center Director Kristi West to serve as her coach/mentor. West also is active in the Juneau Soccer Club.

Milbrett wasn't the first soccer player Lehnhart invited to the camp. She wrote a letter to Kristine Lilly, who has made the most international appearances of any U.S. Women's National Team member, and asked her if she would be available. But Lilly is on the 2004 Olympic Team and had training commitments that prevented her from making the trip to Juneau.

So Lehnhart started working with Juneau Soccer Club members to see if any of them had connections to international players who weren't tied up with the Olympic team.

That included asking her father, Gary Lehnhart, who is the coach of the defending state champion Juneau-Douglas High School boys team and runs Thunder Mountain Sports Camps in the summer. She also worked with Matt Dusenberry (the JDHS boys junior varsity coach) and Lindsey Kato about contacting professional and college players or coaches.

"We were calling around and it looked like it wasn't going to happen," West said. "Then we got the call from Tiffeny. She wants the Alaska experience (Milbrett has relatives in Anchorage and Palmer)."

Once they got the call from Milbrett about six weeks ago, Carly Lehnhart has been working with her father on designing a brochure for the camp. She also had to contact local businesses to see if she could raise some of the money needed to pay Milbrett's guest clinician fee, which is $6,000.

"We ran into budgeting issues," Lehnhart said. "We got $1,000. ... We got a lot of things donated by club members, like whale watching trips and (the use of) a cabin in Couverden."

By getting donations from local businesses and other soccer supporters, Lehnhart hoped to lower the camp's cost for the Juneau Soccer Club players attending it. She said the club members will have to pay about $100 each for the camp.

More information about the camp can be found on the Juneau Soccer Club's Web site, www.juneausoccer.org/tiffeny.htm.

• Charles Bingham can be reached at charles.bingham@juneauempire.com.



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