April 2014 in Knoxville, Tennessee

Brazil Soccer Sports Visitors Program

The Brazil Soccer Sports Visitors Program took place in April 2014 in Knoxville, TN. The program consisted of 16 participants in total – 14 female players, one female coach, and one male coach. All participants were from Sao Paolo and had been working together in a ten-month program.

The program lasted nine days in total. The participants attended a program orientation upon arrival with Dr. Hillyer and Dr. Huffman. They then attended Dr. Huffman’s service learning class where they went through several team-building exercises and participated in a cultural exchange with the University students. The soccer clinics were a main component of the program and happened nearly every other day. They were able to learn different techniques, skills, and drills that they can use back home with the rest of their team. In addition, both coaches, Coach Lisa and Coach Abby, helped the participants and coaches think about the game differently and work on strategy.

In addition to regular soccer clinics, the participants also participated in an adaptive soccer session where they had to play soccer without their sight. This session taught them the difficulties of adaptive sports, as well as trust and communication with their teammates. This session was followed up with a talk from Ann Cody about adaptive sports and the power of sport to be inclusive.

There were several themes focused on throughout the program. One of the main themes was environmentalism. The participants attended an Earth Day Festival and were able to learn about the environment and how to protect it. While at the festival the participants learned creative ways to recycle and care for the earth, as well as creative ways to teach about protecting the environment. Nearly all of the participants stated that they wanted to use these ideas back home. Another theme that was focused on throughout the program was community service and volunteerism. The participants volunteered their time at Girls, Inc. and worked with the young girls there in an after school program. This activity seemed to resonate with the participants who said that spending time there was very rewarding. Participants also participated in a two-hour Zumabthon for the YMCA. This event was not only fun but also showed the participants ways to fundraise for charity and use local partnerships to their advantage. These themes and ideas were mentioned and used throughout the entire program.

The participants also attended many cultural activities and events. These included seeing the movie Rio 2, shopping, visiting Patriot Academy, the World Cup Festival, the International House social hour, and home hospitality at Dr. Huffman’s. All of these activities helped to enrich the cultural exchange experience for the participants.

The visit to Patriot Academy was truly amazing and such an incredible day for all involved. The visit started with a formal welcome from the principal of Patriot Academy followed by a tour of the school. Then the participants were able to go and talk in different classes as well as ask questions of the students. The choir then came and performed and then the participants learned new games in a physical education class. The participants then got to eat lunch in the school cafeteria with the students. The day ended by the County Commissioner presenting the participants and the Home Team with certificates of honorary citizenship.

The World Cup Festival was also a remarkable experience that helped foster a cultural exchange. At the World Cup Festival participants were able to play with people from ages five to University aged students. They could play soccer, listen to music, visit with new friends, and play other field games. It was a great opportunity for them to see how sport can cut across nationality, age, gender, and so many other barriers. The participants stated how this day was a highlight in the program for them.

Home hospitality was a great end to the program and it also showed participants more about American life. The participants played games, danced, ate dinner, and had a small celebration and closing ceremony. The participants were also able to Skype with their Home Team and share their experiences with them throughout the program. The Home Team was also going through a similar program in Brazil and shared with the Away Team during these sessions. The culmination of the program was the presentation of their action plan. They did one joint action plan which they have included the home team in every aspect. They plan to raise awareness of women’s sports and opportunities for women in sports and soccer when they return home. They have a detailed plan for gaining access to facilities, partners, participants, and fundraising opportunities. They have the full support of their coaches in their action plan.