A pair of women’s soccer players spread passion for soccer.
Women’s soccer players junior Kate Yurkovic and sophomore Jenna Gosnay gave back through love of the game.
Soccer is a universal sport, as Gosnay and Yurkovic experienced while participating in a volunteer program run by Soccer Without Borders during winter break.
The organization reaches out to underprivileged youth, through soccer and teamwork. The student-athletes volunteered their time and skills this past January in Granada, Nicaragua.
“Soccer helped a lot with bonding with these girls,” Yurkovic said. “It was just awesome because one little thing made us feel so close and broke the language barrier.”
Yurkovic and Gosnay recently finished competing for the women’s soccer team last fall in a 5-12-1 season. The teammates found out about the Soccer Without Borders opportunity through their coach, Matt Gwilliam, when he forwarded the team an email.
“I was extremely excited to hear of [Gosnay and Yurkovic’s] desire to join Soccer Without Borders,” Gwilliam said.
The players said they were welcomed into the Granada community. They stayed with a host family for the trip and said they immediately experienced a dramatically different lifestyle.
While the balmy weather, reaching almost 90 degrees most days, provided one change, the biggest difference may have been seeing how such a different culture lived and dealt with not always the best circumstances.
Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America, but the players said the commmunity was opened to share what resources they had.
The campers were equally open, and also resilient, and Yurkovic and Gosnay were inspired to serve as role models to the young girls, who don’t always receive attention.
“I feel like I was showing them that they can do anything they want,” Yurkovic said. “To be a role model and show them that girls are equally as important as boys, I know they are very strong girls, and are going to grow up to be amazing women.”
A day at camp began with a morning of soccer games and drills, and then would move on to character building activities after lunch. At this time, the girls took a break from soccer, doing arts and crafts and learning other skills. While the afternoons were productive as well, it was clear that soccer was the high point for both campers and the volunteers.
“The camp was a very diverse group of people in terms of personalities, but something we all had in common was that we love playing soccer,” Gosnay said. “At times the language barrier could get frustrating and discouraging, but once we started playing none of that mattered.”
While Yurkovic said that the girls she worked with have helped her more than they realize, the Temple student-athletes have undoubtedly helped as well. They donated 50 pounds of new or gently used soccer equipment and paid $400 each, which went towards the programs events and their host family.
Yurkovic, a captain of Temple’s soccer team, is majoring in Early Childhood Education, while Jenna Gosnay is pursuing a degree in social work with a minor in Spanish. Both look forward to continue participating in community service related functions, and plan to stay involved with Soccer Without Borders.
“As big as this world is, soccer was able to make it smaller and more personal for all of the girls,” Gwilliam said. “It was a special opportunity and we are very proud.”
Liz Sim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.