Hello! Our names are Alexis and Phoebe Papavasiliou, and we are here to share our experience with UKSD! We started UKSD when we were 5 and 7 years old in a run down gym in Osterville, Massachusetts. There were about 4 other kids in the class, who are now very close friends. He introduced himself to us as “Doc”, and that is still what we call him to this day. We have not stopped participating in his clinics and community service projects since. Through this program, we have made many friends and valuable memories. We also met many young women, that we admire and look up to, including Megan Fligg and Maddie Brennan. They would run clinics, and we would hear about their inspiring trips to Dominica, Ohio, Jordan, Kibera, and Florida, hoping one day we too could be apart of such a journey. Now we are happy to say we have come full circle, and we are going on the next trip to Dominica in April.
There are rare moments in life when we get to stand, side by side, with someone who has been a fundamental component to our ability to achieve our dreams. This Fall, members of the Barnstable High School girl’s soccer team were given this opportunity.
The Cape Cod Cooperative Bank reached out to the high school team to ask if they would be interested in helping coach this year’s clinic offered by Kristine Lilly.
For those who don’t know, Lilly is a former professional soccer player and member of the Women’s National Team. She is a pioneer in the women’s game, as she helped to establish its legitimacy and power within the United States. Due to her incredible talent and unparalleled work ethic, she has set a foundation for girls to be able to pursue the dream of playing in a professional setting.
Love is a very complex emotion. According to science, love can be explained through the release of neurotransmitters in the body called dopamine and endorphins that emulate a “feel-good” response towards someone or something. However, love is much more complicated than that. It can be applied to a plethora of different things. Someone can love another person, an object, an idea, or any other arbitrary thing. In my opinion, love is the most powerful emotion, which means it can also do the most damage. For example, I loved soccer more than anything in the entire world.
Something we have learned through our journey here at UKSD is the importance of making partnerships. For the past few weeks, we have partnered with South Shore Select and Coaches Across Continents in order to enhance all of our abilities to reach kids through the game of soccer. South Shore Select is an all girls soccer club located in Hingham, MA. Although they focus much of their work on building talented young athletes who are both technically and tactically educated, they are very much aware of the importance of helping their players also build their sense of character, commitment, leadership potential, and global awareness. It is because of this that Select welcomed, with open arms, Coaches Across Continents hands- on-training.
Attitude, Commitment, Character.
When Doc first asked me to write this letter, I laughed at the irony that the night before I was racing to work with the words: “If you are not 5 minutes early you are late”, running through my mind. I find it amazing that after all this time his teachings have still stuck with me and become so crucial to life. Although many times one may struggle to even understand what Doc is saying, listen closely, for he has a wealth of knowledge he is willing to share that will help you through more than just a 90 minute soccer game.
Whenever we return from a service trip, we are often met with genuine inquiry about how it was, what the people we like, how the kids responded to us being there, or things of this nature. We have been extremely fortunate to always be able to respond with how wonderful everything has been, but it can be very hard to put it all into words. Something that many don’t realize regarding service work is the extreme emotional impact it can have on the volunteers. While traveling, we fill every waking minute with projects and activities. Your mind rarely has time to pause and let everything sink in. It really isn’t until we return and take some time to debrief that we are able to grapple with all that we saw and felt. On our recent trip to Kenya, this was no exception. Each day carried its own weight of attempting to understand and fully comprehend the struggles of the people and communities we worked with and the gnawing question of- how can we help?
There are some individuals who become aware, at a young age, of what it is that they wish to do with their lives. Although some people will inevitably change their minds as they get older or find a new path, others continue, steadfast, directly towards their original goal. For me, the latter rings true. Teaching was something I not only was interested in, but it was something which I could feel was going to be a calling in my life. Much of this is as a result of powerful and passionate educators who lead me to believe that great change could come as a result of teaching. I am lucky to say that I have not only been able to work at an incredible high school, but I also have the privilege of coaching here. It is due to these two roles which I play that I am able to connect with and form relationships with such a diverse group of students. I am able to work academically and athletically with youth from different ethnicities, cultures, genders, religions, socio-economic classes, etc. Although it is my job, in essence, to be the person teaching them, I can claim with undeniable conviction that they are more often than not teaching me.
A soccer ball is far more than material stitched together; it’s more than a toy or piece of equipment. A soccer ball is a tool which has the power to create change, form bonds, and it speaks a language all on its own. It is because of this that we have created the Sphere of Change Soccer Ball. This ball simultaneously functions as a donation for the children and teens we serve, but it also gives credit to the many amazing sponsors who have helped us along the way. Each year, various organizations, local businesses, and individual sponsors make a donation to our UKSD KizPlay4FreeProject.
Although we are aware that college is not for everyone, we find that the majority of our
UKSD participants do have a desire to pursue their education beyond high school. For some, it
is strictly the pursuit of academic endeavors. For others, they also wish to pursue their athletic
dreams as well. Regardless of the particular route, we believe that it is part of our responsibility,
as coaches and mentors, to expose our participants to varied college campuses, programs,
avenues, and areas of exploration. Furthermore, we also find it imperative to continue our
support of our members well into their transition towards whichever university or institution they
It has been said that, “ If you educate a girl, you empower a nation” ( Queen Rania of Jordan). Beyond just a belief of theory, there is, without a shadow of a doubt, truth to this statement. Girls and women are an integral component to the growth and success of any society or culture. When we educate young women, we empower them to navigate the lives which they want to live rather than the life which may be mapped out for them.
This education comes in innumerable forms, yet each avenue of exploration can yield profound results. Here, at United Kidz Soccer Development, we have seen this come to life when we use soccer as a tool to teach young women some of the most vital life skills they will ever need.
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