Women's Soccer Team Visits Costa Rica
The University of Hartford women’s soccer team spends the season focused on the competition. Foes on the field from other colleges, who demand their perseverance and concentration.
In November, a different group earned the team members’ utmost attention: youngsters at a school in Costa Rica.
All 21 Hawks visited the country in November for a long-awaited trip that included service work at an under-resourced elementary school, a soccer game against a local club team, hiking, and a visit to a wildlife sanctuary.
“It’s almost like the trip was a celebration of the game of soccer,” says team member Christina Stone ’24. “With the Costa Rican team, there was a lot of mutual respect, the game was super competitive, and everyone talked about how the love of the game showed through. And for our service work, it was us sharing something we love with kids who don’t have as many opportunities as they should.”
The trip was originally planned for 2020, but got delayed as the pandemic emerged, Head Coach John Natale said. The experience team members have talked about most, he adds, was working with the local kiddos.
The school children greeted the Hawks with homemade cards that thanked them for visiting, before everyone broke into groups to practice soccer fundamentals, says Imani Jenkins ’24.
“The school was small with a ton of kids,” she adds. “It kind of put things in perspective. But kids are going to be kids regardless of the situation, so it was nice to see them enjoy themselves and have fun.”
It was hard to leave at the end of the day, as team members bonded with the youngsters. “We brought them UHart shirts, and some asked us to sign them with markers. They were getting everyone’s signatures,” Stone recalls.
That wasn’t the only winning day. UHart defeated the local team 3-2, with Jenkins making the game’s final goal. The Costa Rican team had a different style of play, Jenkins and Stone say, making the match stand out from all others this season for reasons beyond the location.
What will they keep with them from the trip? Everything they learned about the Costa Rican culture, the excitement of playing in another country, and, of course, those special cards from the local school kids.