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.
“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.
“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!
“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