As ESI kicked off the winter season, a noticeable coaching addition has appeared on the sideline. Coach Camille Denis has been assisting Coach Stéphane Auvray and is currently the graduate assistant coach for the women’s soccer team at Baker University. As a part of her graduate degree criteria, she was tasked with doing an internship. For that she chose ESI.

“I’m working on my masters in sport management at Baker University,” Camille said. “With their program I have the opportunity to do an internship. I have done a lot of internships, especially for my undergrad. I really wanted it to be coaching soccer and not be sitting in a sporting office, so I reached out to Stéphane to do it with ESI.”

She started training with ESI teams in November and she is hoping to continue observing and learning as long as she can. Camille understands the information she is acquiring at ESI is imperative to helping her become a better coach. Her goal is to score insights at ESI that she can apply in her career as a head coach in the future.

“I’m hoping to be a better coach. I have hinted at wanting to keep coaching. I love soccer and don’t see myself doing anything else,” Camille said. “With that - it has been a little harder - especially the last 2 years being an assistant. I have appreciated Stéphane giving me the opportunity to coach the boys. To be able to work with them and work out what works and doesn’t work. Trying things and seeing what is best applied - while your players are learning - and you are learning yourself.”

Camille played college soccer with Washburn University (NCAA, Division II) for 4 years as a midfielder. In 2020 she was poised to coach the high school girls at Shawnee Mission West but with COVID the plans were changed. Her fellowship with ESI is not her first experience in the coaching realm - and not her first with male players.

“I’m used to coaching younger boys. I have also done a lot of camps and have experience working with younger aged boys. But with the High School age, I have not had as much experience,” Camille said. “I’ve been coaching since I was 16. I had a U9 girls group that I coached for three and a half years. After I graduated, I have been working with the college girls.”

She has enjoyed the opportunity to coach older boys and in her short time observing the players and the ESI culture, she has noticed the differences and what sets ESI apart from other soccer experiences.

“The way Stéphane trains the players you can tell that they have a little more awareness - and are a little bit more creative in how they apply themselves on the field,” Camille said. “He teaches them to be creative on the field and with the girls on the college level we might be a little bit more instructive and also not as creative. Neither is wrong but that has been my observation.”

In addition to a player developmental approach, Camille has appreciated Stéphane’s level of intensity and attention to details with the players - something that obviously is a product of playing as a professional soccer player and years of coaching experience.

“His intensity and knowledge of what it takes to be at the professional level really sets him apart,” Camille said. “I can tell you that when I was growing up, I didn’t have the mentorship of wanting to play professionally - I didn't have the guide to do that. Doing my stuff at home was one thing, but having someone who knows and can help you and be more there for your development. This was something that, from a coaching perspective, I really wanted to learn about as well.”

For now, Camille attends sessions and acts as an assistant to Stéphane, helping coach games and share analysis with her mentor. When asked how ESI players and families have received her so far, Camille said, “Everyone is so nice!”

In Her Words - Q&A with Coach Camille

Question: What new insights have you learned from coaching with Stéphane, so far?
Answer: That the development of becoming a strong soccer player is much earlier than I once thought. How much the players learn in their youth - it is important. You don’t understand the game as well until your teenage years but you learn all the body movements and techniques when you are younger.

Question: How is his connection with the players unique?
Answer: I think the way he asks questions of players is special. This is one of the aspects of his style that I am really appreciative of and would like to put in my own coaching ability.

I also have to say the way he disciplines his team is different. Some coaches - they will say hello and fist bump you - but he is unique in that he has them count in French and say bonjour and thank you in French. The greetings are very individual before and after each training and it really shows that the kids respect him in the way they say hello and goodbye in each session.

Question: What is different about Stéphane’s style of coaching?
Answer: He has a very adaptive style. He adapts to the groups he has and what the players want to get out of the session.

For example, I had a Coach used to help me at 10 years old. He would write the same session and do it for all 5 of his teams. By the 5th session he had perfected the session. This philosophy was to try it multiple times until you can get the best sessions. That is not what Stéphane does - he is going to adapt to the group.

Also, the way he puts things together is unique. Not sure how to explain it but...One of the things - that makes a lot of sense now - but that I didn’t realize as so important was juggling. The ESI 06 and 05 team - they had to do the big juggling challenge. I asked Stéphane about this and he mentioned that when his son (Kai Auvray) went up to the French National Team they also had to do a juggling challenge. While I knew it was important, I didn’t understand how those things were foundational on all levels of the game.

Question: Why do you think players respond so well to Stephane’s coaching?
Answer: He knows what it takes (to become a professional soccer player) and all the little details that you have to work on to get there. Because he was at the higher level playing professionally the players really listen to him and he asks them questions to gain insight, listen and really understand their perspective.

Question: How does Stéphane’s coaching differ from what you have experienced so far?
Answer: He is not winning oriented. Every other team is definitely winning oriented. He is developmentally focused on helping each player.

Question: From your perspective, what type of player should go to ESI and why should they come to ESI?
Answer: If you want your kid to get better and develop their soccer and awareness then they should go to ESI over a club that makes winning a priority. If the kid has the goal of getting better and wants a better understanding of soccer and how to problem solve, that is an important thing that they will learn at ESI.