This Spring, our Community Empowerment and Leadership Club hosted an event in collaboration with the Cape Cod WE CAN ( Women’s Empowerment Through Cape Area Networking) organization. The focus was to open up multigenerational discussions about what it means to be an empowered woman and girl within our communities and within society as a whole. The world we live in today is complicated, to say the least. It is our wish to help young women come to know the power of their voice and to instill in them the belief that they are capable of enacting great change. This event was a stepping stone to the greater work which is ahead.
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?
Beginning at about the age of 8, I began to attend UKSD street soccer programs that were held in a small gym, with only a few people that would show up. I still continue to participate in the free of charge programs like street soccer, futsal, and beach soccer to this day. These programs have evolved from a small gym setting to huge crowds around a basketball court on a Tuesday night. These programs began to include lessons such as personal care, environmental care, and awareness about substance abuse. They were not only a place to play soccer and learn about important life lessons, but they are also a place that allowed me to create so many new friendships and relax and enjoy the game.
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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