Stories

Pura Vida y Futbol- The simple life and soccer

Pura Vida y Futbol- The simple life and soccer

Community service through soccer in Costa Rica

Originally we were planning to return to Nicaragua, our usual destination for our summer international service trip. But due to the political unrest that began just two months before our departure we had to think fast and change course, slightly south, to Costa Rica. There we spent 5 days in a small town on the coast called Puntarenas. We coordinated logistics with a partner organization called Woza, they conduct soccer service trips in Costa Rica, Peru, Malawi every summer for high school aged groups and teams. Upon arrival we quickly jumped into the rampant soccer culture and played a night pick up game on the outdoor basketball court. The next day we began our service at the Roble elementary school nearby. There we worked with about 40 children, boys and girls ages 7-14. These children we worked with are orphans from local families that were unable to provide for them. They live in an orphanage nearby and attend this school everyday.

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“Personally, I was in an orphanage before I got adopted so I wanted to be able to see these kids and just bring them joy and love. I enjoyed seeing a different culture, meeting new friendly people, and seeing people so passionate about soccer- something I love too.” - Natasha Scott, 14 years old, San Francisco, CA

Our girls- junior coaches ages 12-14, jumped in emphatically to start playing with the kids and learning about their lives. The two groups attached to each other seamlessly. We played soccer for a few hours with them and then swam in the beach, played pick up beach soccer with some locals and then played indoor soccer with some of the older very skilled boys in the community. Using our Spanish to communicate proved challenging but also humorous. Their English was pretty good so we were able to get by.

“This trip was so valuable because a lot of the soccer we played was against boys. It feels like there is always a higher bar for girls and women playing sports and so I find myself constantly having to prove myself when playing soccer, but I think us participating in this trip helped us earn respect for all girls/women from the boys we played against. We had the opportunity to show them we were real competitors on the field." -Lucie Bacho, 14 years old, San Francisco, CA

The next few days were similar with the exception of the second day. We noticed the girls were not playing that much and saw the reason was that the boys were not passing to them and often taking the ball from them even when they were on the same team. So we separated the boys from the girls and found the girls to be very interested, excited, and wanting to play more! Some of the girls had exceptional skills and athleticism.

“When we told the girls we were going to play separately from the boys their faces lit up with smiles. I think most of them hadn’t played much in the past because of fear of judgement and not being worthy of playing with boys.” - Hannah Merickel, 14 years old, San Francisco, CA

The girls were happy and that made us happy in return, to make them smile and let them know we support them.

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“While we were playing buddy soccer (holding hands with a local girl while playing) my partner didn’t speak any English. But when I helped her get the ball on defense she was smiling as wide as she could and gave me a high five!” -Sophie Merickel, 12 years old, San Francisco, CA

On our last day we were able to visit the soccer academy run by a local professional soccer player named Roberto. He had a group of about 45 boys and 2 girls participating in the academy session that was run by another professional player at the local soccer stadium. The session was impressively very collegiate in its drills and style of play.

“This trip was important to me because I wanted to make a difference in an area where girls don’t generally play soccer. It was inspiring to me to see the girls smiling and having so much fun playing soccer with us. It seemed like their confidence was boosted and I hope they saw that girls are not lower than boys in sports.”- Maia Arriola, 14 years old, San Francisco, CA

After four days of coaching and playing endless amounts of soccer we had a day off to swing in the beautiful Costa Rica lush forest for some zip lining. We left Costa Rica wishing we could spend another week there- feeling grateful, accomplished, closer, and our hearts full.

“It is always good to me to learn about other cultures and their everyday lives. It was interesting to see how grateful we should be for everything we have because others in the world may not be as lucky. My favorite part of the trip was going to the school to play with the kids that are orphans because they were always very excited to see us and we all enjoyed playing together.” - Sarah Nasoni, 13 years old, San Francisco, CA

We plan to return and also remain connected with the local community partners, Roberto and Karol, to start a girls summer soccer program just like our Nicaragua program to get more girls playing and to provide the resources they need to do so.

If you want to help by either donating soccer cleats & clothes or by donating towards the $3,000 summer program cost here we know the girls will be extremely grateful!

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“My favorite part of the trip was meeting the local people, getting to play soccer against the boys my age because they were really skilled, and seeing all the girls at the school play soccer and really enjoy it!” -Ella Plotinsky, 12 years old, San Francisco, CA

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Meet Coach Karli!

Meet Coach Karli Jonasen

Karli is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She joined Girls Leading Girls in 2017 as a head coach and SF Sol program manager. Karli recently joined our 03/04 SF Sol Travel team to Gothenburg, Sweden for the Gothia Cup over the summer. Karli attended Loras College in Dubuque, IA where she majored in International Studies and Politics. In 2010-2011, Karli played soccer for Loras College, where they were conference Champions and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.  She ended her soccer career after the season due to multiple ACL/meniscus surgeries. However, she then played lacrosse for Loras in 2013 and 2014. She was captain and was awarded Most Inspirational Player after the 2013 season.

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What do you love most about coaching?

The best part of coaching is connecting with the girls. Helping them on the field is awesome and watching them improve and succeed on the field is great. But the even more rewarding part is helping them become better versions of themselves. Helping them see that they are stronger than they think, that they can push themselves farther than they think they can go, and learning that they are leaders in their own way is the most rewarding.

I have had my fair share of bad coaches, and I know that I do not want other girls to have to have coaches who will make them hate the game. I still love the game because of the couple great coaches I did have. I learned what kind of coach I wanted to be which is a positive and encouraging coach. And at the same time I am serious about helping them become better players.

What does coaching mean to you?

Coaching is so much more than just the game. It is about their future. Teaching these girls healthy habits, how to play the game safely, how to do technical skills properly, teaching them good sportsmanship, teaching them how to be a good teammate is so important to me. Helping them grow is the best part about coaching.

What motivated you to play collegiate soccer?

I wanted to be the best athlete I possibly could be. I pushed myself harder than anyone else. I was my toughest critic. Since I was 13 years old, I have had 6 different knee tears and 4 surgeries. I learned how hard it was to be on the sidelines. Whenever I was healthy I never took anytime I had on the field for granted because I knew what it was like to not be able to play the game that I loved. I lost a total of about four years due to the injuries, surgeries, and recovery times. So when I made it to college, I did not take anything for granted. I not only had regular two hour practices a day, but I also did weightlifting, conditioning sessions with my athletic trainer, and then pre- and post- sessions with the athletic training in order to keep myself and my injuries healthy.  I did not want to let myself down and I definitely did not want to let my teammates down.

What helped you stay disciplined as a student athlete?

Part of being a student athlete is the academics. Academics should be just as important as the sport you are playing. So as much time I spent working on my game, I also spent the same amount, if not more on my studies. I worked extremely hard in college. I made the Dean’s list every year. I also participated in missions trips and social justice trips domestically and internationally. I was just as hard on myself when it came to academics.

What is your biggest fear?

One of my biggest fears is not fulfilling my potential. I never wanted to squander my academics or athletics because I did not waste any of my potential. I continue to push myself every day so I can reach my full potential!

What do you hope to change about the world?

I hope to change people’s attitudes with one smile at a time. I am a positive person who wants to believe the best in people and in the world. I know I cannot clean all the oceans of the world alone. I know I cannot solve world hunger alone. I know I cannot stop all the wars and fighting alone. But maybe by sharing my positivity with the people around me, I can change people’s thinking. Help us care for one another no matter what religion, ethnicity, economic background, gender, or sexuality. Because when we all feel important, then we all feel like we can make a difference. And together, we are stronger. With one smile, you can turn someone’s day around. Simple acts of kindness, is how I choose to try to change the world every single day. Those little acts can help make a great difference when enough people have been touched by kindness.

More About Karli

Karli has coached at the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy (JFSLA) in New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia, and California every summer since 2011. She has worked with girls ages 9-18. At JFSLA, the coaches focus on teaching the girls soccer skills, but also teaching them about leadership on and off the soccer field. Throughout the years, Karli has had the opportunity and privilege to learn under former national players, current professional players, college coaches, and club coaches.

In 2016, Karli was chosen along with nine other JFSLA alumni to represent the United States and the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy in India. This opportunity was funded by the State Department. They were teamed up with Magic Bus, an organization that works with boys and girls in the slums across India. Abroad the JFSLA alumni had the chance to learn more about Magic Bus, visit the slums, and work with boys and girls on and off the soccer field.

“Our coach, Karli, was outstanding. The proof is in the incredible turnaround of our team, which prior to this season had not won a single game!” - SF Sol parent