Abby Hein, a junior at Brown University, spent last summer in Tanzania teaching English at a government school and helping to establish a soccer league for the children to try and bring the benefits of sport to the village she was in. The experience also helped her with a decision about her own sports career:
Being among children who did not always have the right to play gave me a renewed and productive outlook on my athletic career. I came to realize that it is fruitless to become discouraged when the ball doesn’t bounce your way – in sports and in life. When the final whistle blows in a game, I am still the same person; a win or a loss does not define who I am. Tanzania taught me that I can handle any obstacle thrown my way with grace, self-reliance, poise, and courage.
In addition, I now understand that there does not need to be a division between athletics and academics. I found that they can rest in perfect harmony. This has made me a stronger and more conscientious athlete, student, and person. Because life was so raw in Tanzania, I was forced to react in new, creative ways. This gave me a better understanding of my strengths, weaknesses, and interests as a student.
The story is a bit light on details, and perhaps Abby will be able to share a more in depth look at her experience in the future. I think it would be fascinating to know what obstacles she faced in organizing the league, working with the children, and how her efforts were received by the village.
Sometimes we can lose sight of what other children in the world face, even when it comes to something as simple as playing soccer.