FARMINGTON — After finishing his freshman year at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, Alden Thompson Vought couldn’t wait to return home to coach at the University of Maine at Farmington Summer Soccer Camp.

Three soccer players vie for the ball during a drill at the University of Maine at Farmington Summer Soccer Program in Farmington on Monday. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal

Mt. Blue girls soccer coach Fred Conlogue has been involved in the UMF summer program for decades, and his sons — Zac and Griffin — have decided to follow their father’s lead.

Talk to any one of these coaches and they will tell you it is a privilege to be a part of a summer program that serves the communities around and outside UMF — and they are only too happy to give up a week in the summer to work with children and teenagers.

For the staff, the summer camp has become a tradition.

“This is my 12th year (eight years as a camper) and third year as a counselor,” Thompson Vought, who is playing soccer for Earlham, said. “I wouldn’t keep coming back if I didn’t (like it).

“It is so much community. I feel like UMF soccer camp was for many years my biggest week of progression. I would always get so much better every year as a player,” he said. “I feel like my skills with children improve every year as a counselor. I feel like it is so rich, so fun and it is a tradition. It is usually like the first week after school gets out. It is like the start of summer. It is the commencement of a wonderful time.’’

UMF women’s soccer coach Molly Wilkie has been running the program for the past 11 seasons and has no desire to step down. Before this undertaking, she was an assistant to longtime head coach Bob Leib, who has since retired.

“It has been such a tradition for the community to have the soccer camp,” Wilkie explained. “I think it is a great service for the youth here, who want to get better and also a good opportunity for my college players and some of the high school players to get some coaching experience. 

“So it is a great service for the community and a great way to develop leaders and coaches for the future.”

To oversee this huge enterprise of organizing 140 soccer campers, Wilkie oversees the 21 coaches who have a lot on their plate when it comes to running drills and teaching the fundamentals of the game.

“This is a big one (turnout-wise),” Wilkie pointed out. “I am not sure it’s the largest. I think we had one year that it was closest to 150. This is the biggest we had in a few years.” 

And she is seeing participants from as far away as Auburn, Sabattus and Rumford showing up.

“We have a few Rangeley kids. So we are spreading further out a little bit,” she said. “My favorite part is to walk around and observe a little bit.”

Wilkie said the love of the sport and imparting her knowledge to young athletes keeps her coming back each June. She enjoys the positive energy she receives from her campers and coaches.

“I absolutely could not do it without the staff I have,” she said. “Unbelievably incredible staff — I can’t say enough good things about them as people and coaches. I am really, really lucky to have who I have.”

When it comes to UMF soccer camp, it really is a family affair at the Conlogue home.

Fred Conlogue has been enjoying the warm sun and green UMF playing fields for the past 32 years.

“I started when I was a junior in college (at UMF),” said Conlogue, who is a Farmington middle school teacher. “When we were in college, we used to run the high school rec program for the high school kids.

“I even moved away and I still kept coming back. I just loved working with Bob (Leib),” Conlogue said. “He was great to work with. I was just very committed to him. I just kept coming back every summer.

“Now that I live in the town — I have been living here for 15 years — it helps give me that relationship with the kids so when they come into the middle school, they have a common face that they know.”

Conlogue remembers that the camp was held for two weeks because of the volume of young athletes who registered to participate.

“Molly is starting to get those number to where they were,” Conlogue said. “It is hard when you have someone who does that for 30 years and leaves.”

Griffin Conlogue has offered his expertise at the UMF camp for the past three years.

“I just like getting to know all the kids,” Griffin said. “Getting a lot of kids to play a lot soccer and fall in love with the game the way I did, just kind of transfer that passion over to them.

“It always fun to see over a 100 kids out here playing soccer on a weekday in summer,” he said. “Molly does a really good job of getting all these kids passionate about playing and getting the information out to the community and make sure they are come.”

Zac Conlogue, who is also the Mt. Blue boys tennis coach, has been mentoring kids at the camp since his sophomore year in high school.

“It is just a lot of fun. It is great to see all the kids; it is great to see their improvement,” Zac said. “This is my 13th year. The coaching staff really works well together and it is just a fun atmosphere.”

A portion of the camp is for older athletes, and it also is a big draw.

“I think this is my fourth year,” said Hannah Wilbur, a sophomore at Mt. Blue. “For me, I love playing soccer, so it is a good chance to do what I love and not sit at home, and I learn a lot.”

But Wilbur is aging out of the program. She is mulling over becoming a camp counselor.

“I might come help out, though,” Wilbur said. “I might do that.”

Callie Towle, who will be a freshman at Mt. Blue in September, has been attending the UMF camp since she was 5 years old.

“I think it is a good community base because you are around all the people in your community and you get to know all young and older ones,” Towle explained. “As a soccer player, it helps me get a jump start on it because they don’t really have programs except for the camps.”

Camp counselor Makenzie Thompson played at Mt. Blue for Fred Conlogue.

“I live here in Farmington and this is my favorite week of the summer,” said Thompson, who is a social worker at Dirigo Elementary School. “I always make sure this week is free to be able to coach at the camp.

“I think this is my seventh year,” she said. “I love the staff, I love Molly; I love the atmosphere. It is just a good time.”

Ginger Fails of New Sharon said her son, Camaeron, will continue coming to the camp, and after the past three or four years, Fails can see the difference in his athletic ability.

Cameron enjoys the camp and said, “because I get to learn more stuff about soccer.”

And that’s just another ringing endorsement for the UMF soccer camp from another child who enjoys the game.