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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sports United international students bond with DC SCORES youth during afternoon of winter soccer

Written by Kara Dunford
Communications Intern

The doors to the Bancroft Elementary School gym opened tentatively, as the winter SCORES students peered in to see their teammates for the day.

Amazed faces filed into the gym where dozens of international students waited to greet the Bengals.

Last Thursday was a special day at winter SCORES programming. High school students from six countries — Argentina, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Nigeria, South Korea, and Turkey — traveled to the United States as part of the State Department’s Sports United exchange program. After visiting the office to learn about DC SCORES’ mission and program, the students headed to Bancroft for an afternoon of soccer.

Introductions were made using a name game challenge and the students were then divided into four teams, with Bancroft and international students represented on each.

I watched as the international students welcomed the Bancroft students to their teams with great energy, and slowly the initial hesitation of the Bengals melted away. They were a team, and it was time to play.

On the soccer field, the two groups had lessons to share with each other.

Joshua W., a Bancroft student, told me after playing two scrimmages that his new teammates for the day taught him about the importance of teamwork.

“It’s not all about ball hogging, shooting, and making goals,” he said. “It’s about passing and learning how to work as a team.”

Rida C., a student from Lebanon, said the Bengals taught her about an important element of the game.

“We’re playing and we’re having fun,” she said.

As the afternoon continued, students scrimmaged against each other on Bancroft’s small outdoor field and inside the gym. The games were complete with laughter and new soccer tricks, as well as some of my favorite moments from the day — the joint celebrations that ensued following a goal.

The action on and off the soccer pitch was a true testament to the power of sports. By being brought together on a team, the Bengals and the Sports United students reached outside of their comfort zones and interacted with individuals from cultures different than their own.

The day started with some shyness and hesitation. By afternoon’s end, high fives and conversation among the students weren’t hard to come by. When it came time to head home, the Bengals said goodbye to the Sports United students as if they were old friends, posing for photos and exchanging hugs.

After one final DC SCORES cheer, the afternoon came to a close, but not before giving us another example of soccer bringing people together.

Check out the video to hear reactions from the students. Be sure to follow along on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #winterSCORES to stay updated on programming.

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