Kickin’ in Costa Rica

Soccer programs travel over summer break to serve and play in Central America

This past summer the Waynesburg University soccer teams spent a week in Costa Rica. The teams had the opportunity to serve at a Christian school, give shoes to those in need, play against professional teams and watch a professional match as well. 

“It was awesome, I think you can measure a trip in a lot of ways,” assistant coach Zach Morgan said. “You have the experiences of everything, so being in a different country as a team [was beneficial]. Playing soccer matches was also great as a team.”

Both the women’s and men’s teams played two games each. The women’s team played against first division teams and the men’s teams played against second division teams. Morgan added that the program decided to play the games early in the week so that they could do more service activities towards the end of the week. They did their service projects through an organization called Thrive Vision.

“We are the only organization in Costa Rica that is interacting with soccer players in a professional level,” Daniel Rojas of Thrive Vision said. “So, you do have other organizations bringing teams into Costa Rica, but most of the time we want them [to do the service] as well as play with professional teams.”

Rojas is the founder of Thrive Vision, and was originally a missionary for 18 years. He loved preaching the gospel, but always asked himself and God if there was anything else he could do to help people. Then he found the answer and created Thrive Vision.

“We want for people to thrive spiritually, emotionally, academically and professionally,” Rojos said.  “We believe that as Christians we can help other people, but not in a spiritual way. If that was the case, then I would be a missionary.”

Morgan said the original plan was to help at a women’s shelter and a church, but once they arrived they were told that they were going to be assisting at a Christian school as well as going to different towns and helping with kids. They also took fishing boats to a remote island in Costa Rica where they stayed for two days, preached the gospel and gave out shoes.

“It’s one of the reasons why we wanted to go there,” Morgan said. “We knew there was needs and we tried to fit those needs as best as we could.”

Each night the team would come together to bond and listen to different stories from Rojas. The final night, whenever they were all together on the field, was a night Rojas said he would never forget. 

“We all gathered together in the soccer field and it was a very good and emotional day for a lot of things,” said Rojas. “A lot of them started to think about their life… so that one night a lot of them made a lot of good decisions and there were some tears and a lot of hugs. That was the night I could say I enjoyed the most.”

Morgan added that each night the teams would do what they called ‘The Beads’. The teams would gather around and give out beads of four different colors to their teammates. Each color represented something that they witnessed that day. One color was for comfort zone, another was for good attitude, another for leadership and one for love. 

“Just being able to share and encourage our teammates with something that we witnessed them do and show how proud of each person we were,” Morgan said.  “That was probably one of my favorite memories of it. Just crying together, laughing together and loving each other was just amazing.”

For senior midfielder Hannah Sembower, this is the only trip with the team she has taken since it was the first year they did it. She said she enjoyed the trip and seeing the culture and beauty of Costa Rica, with her only regret being that she wished they had gone sooner. 

“Some of my favorite memories are definitely going to the school one day,” Sembower said.  “We actually got to see the classrooms and then we also got to play with the team down there as well. We got to exchange our jerseys and interact with them a little bit.”

Sembower added that she still keeps in touch with some of the people from Costa Rica through Facebook. 

“I know the girl that I gave my jersey to,” she said. “I friended her [on Facebook] and her and I keep in touch a little bit. Also, some of the people from the island where we spent two days they also have us on Facebook too.”

Nate Kummer, senior midfielder, also went on the trip to Costa Rica with the team. For him the trip was truly a once in a lifetime.

“I remember each day pretty well,” Kummer said. “Each day we did something pretty cool. But my favorite memory was hanging out with everyone and going to watch the Cup Final.”

Morgan loved whenever the teams were vulnerable with each other and able to come together and bond.

“You wish that kids could do that here in the states without the trip, but sometimes the trip has to bring it out in people,” Morgan said.

Next year the plan is for the trip to Costa Rica to be a service trip for all students.