The Direct Path


Team Soccer Direct

Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Ages: 5-19

Cost: Varies between $90 and $395 for specialty skills sessions and residential camp options

As brothers Dan and George Kuntz surveyed the kids kicking the black-and-white checked ball around, occasionally barking words of encouragement and offering advice, they recognized that this first three-hour soccer clinic was a good call.

It was going great, especially for a first-time shot. The kids were enthusiastic and already picking up some of the finer points of the game.

That first day as Touring Mesa Soccer Clinics in Mesa, Ariz., some 23 years ago spawned what is now one of the healthier soccer camps in the country. But the Kuntz brothers had no designs to create the eight-week program drawing more than 1,500 kids each summer that it would become.

“George took out a small loan of about $500 — which wasn’t easy to get that at the time — and we got a very humble sponsorship from Rosarita Beans that allowed us to do our t-shirts, put their name on it and the name of our clinics,” says Dan Kuntz. “We had 90 kids come to our first camp. There wasn’t a lot of soccer at the time, especially in the Mesa/Tempe area, and we just wanted to get kids involved and jazzed up about the sport.”

The clinics typically lasted five days and ran from about 8-11 a.m., taking advantage of the relatively cooler Arizona mornings. The Kuntz brothers experimented early on, giving away videos of camp weeks and pictures for the kids, and through this clinic gained valuable trial-and-error experience that would later pay dividends.

George became the coach at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and soon moved on to coach the first Division I women’s program at Pepperdine University. He was ultimately hired as the head men’s coach at UC Irvine, his current position.

Dan moved into the head coaching vacancy left by his brother at California Lutheran. With the brothers back in the same vicinity and a precedent set at California Lutheran the camp soon burgeoned into an eight-week program hosting both day-campers and residents. The clinic/camp had shifted to Southern California, and the next phase began.

Creating a Camp

Team Soccer Direct now includes an entry-level day camp that runs from 9-12, another day camp that runs from 9-3 for children who’ve either been to the camp several times or are a little older (9-13 years old), and residence camps.

Kuntz has recently instituted a menu of options on their website ( for teams and families interested in camp that he calls “create-a-camp”. Essentially, it’s born of an increasing necessity to fit camp into overburdened schedules and budgets.

“It’s become a situation, especially for the higher-level player, where they’re involved in tournaments and various activities. Today’s campers aren’t always able to be at camp for five days,” says Kuntz. “We’ve created a dynamic environment where there will be a team or a group within a team that has a budget of say $120 for the week. They’ll say, `We can’t stay for the full week, what can you do for us?’”

A negotiation process of sorts takes place where schedules and budgets are mixed and matched to find just the right fit for the individual or the team that wants to attend camp together.

“We’ll design the camp to the needs of those teams, coaches and players. We also do it on an individual basis, but it becomes a group as we create the schedules in the off-season,” says Kuntz.

This menu-style of scheduling debuted last summer. Three teams took advantage of it and Kuntz reports that all three are returning.

“More and more pressure is being put on children for summer school and year-round school. That’s why we came up with create-a-camp, because those things are impacting the marketplace,” says Kuntz. “We block the time so that we have the facility, so there’s a time frame in which people can sign up for camp. They have to pay a deposit, because we have to book the rooms, just like a hotel.”

Team Soccer Direct also operates for one week around Christmas and in the spring, which also offers more options for kids who can’t make it or whose schedules limit them in the summertime.

Training to Teach

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