Sept. 20, 2011
- Following a second straight Patriot League Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance, the Navy women's lacrosse team embarked on a variety of different activities all over the world during this past summer.
Senior defender Kierstin King, an oceanography major from Upperco, Md., spent over two weeks in South Africa volunteering for Beam Africa through Campus Crusade For Christ (Cru). Cru is a ministry that is active on over 1,000 college campuses in the United States. King traveled with several other Cru members from around the country. The group was stationed in the village of Nellmapius, just outside of Pretoria.
Kierstin King taught the game of lacrosse to children in South Africa
Beam Africa is a permanent organization that relies on volunteers such as King to enhance its mission of providing relief for children and adults in South Africa. Beam Africa provides food, clothing, employment training, after-school care and many other services.
There are a number of different volunteer options through Cru, but selecting Beam Africa was an easy choice for King.
"I love working with kids and I saw that we would be playing sports with them," King said. "I immediately knew it was something that I would really enjoy and it worked perfect with my leave schedule."
King was in South Africa during a break in classes for the local school children, giving the volunteers virtually the entire day to spend time with the children that attend Beam's Nellmapius Development Center. King spent the days playing sports with the children and doing other summer camp type activities.
The opportunity to spend two weeks in South Africa building relationships with children was exciting for King in its own right, but she took it a step further. King, with the help of a Naval Academy classmate, secured a large donation of lacrosse sticks and balls to bring to South Africa and teach the sport to the children.
"The children had never seen a lacrosse stick before," King said. "They had no idea what to do with them. The first thing we had to do was teach them how to hold it."
King had to start slow, beginning with the very basics. She related the sport to soccer, with a big difference being that you pass and shoot with your hands and the stick instead of your feet.
"I just wanted to try it out with them, but they really were dedicated to learning how to play. They took an approach of working hard to get better at it and they liked the challenge of learning something new."
King did drills with the children to teach them the fundamental skills of lacrosse and eventually moved up to passing. One 10-year-old girl, Lala, was so committed to learning that she would not put the lacrosse stick down until she got each of the lessons just right.
"We would teach her how to go one way with the stick and she would work and work on it and she had it. Then we showed her how to go left and she stuck with that until she had it down too. We eventually had the children passing with both hands while running down the field. It was amazing."
King gained a first-hand experience of how sports can bring people together from different cultures.
"I used lacrosse as a way to get to know them better and build relationships with the kids. Some of them had experienced a lot of hardships and violence. Some of them don't speak English and they can be intimated. But when you can play a game with them; they are much more likely to open up."
Although the children were the ones being taught an exciting new sport, King was also able to take something away from the daily lacrosse sessions.
"As athlete, sometimes going through all the practices and workouts can start to become mundane and you can forget that inner passion that you have for the game. But through teaching these children lacrosse and watching them enjoy it, I was really able to reconnect with my passion for the game of lacrosse through them."
Like King, head coach Cindy Timchal appreciates the idea of sharing the game with people all around the world.
"It's so special that you can go to a different culture in South Africa and actually introduce a game that we all love and enjoy here in the United States. Especially a game that we are so passionate about here in Maryland and at the Naval Academy," said Timchal.
Eventually her time at Beam was over and King returned home to the United States. But her departure did not mean the end of the lacrosse careers of so many young children in South Africa. King donated all the lacrosse equipment they brought to Beam for the kids to continue to use.
Below are three capsules written by members of the Navy women's lacrosse team describing how they spent their summer blocks.
Junior | Defender | Annapolis, Md.
This summer I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in one of our school's language study abroad programs. I traveled to Spain for the month of July to study the language, the culture and the history. I lived with a host family for the first three weeks, which were spent in Salamanca, and scrambled to adapt to the new city and culture. Salamanca was full of other international students and we met kids from Germany, Slovenia, England, Switzerland and elsewhere.
Our weekends were incredible. We got to spend time in Madrid and even Portugal (where we ate - gulp - snails). There were new, crazy things to see and try everywhere we went. At the Spanish Naval Academy graduation, we met the Prince of Spain, and had the chance relate to students just like us in a completely different world. They showed us how to live it up in Spain; we attended the Academy's celebration ball that started at 12:30 AM!
Finally, we ended our stay with an amazing trip to Barcelona, which has a culture extremely unique and vibrant, as if the rest of the country weren't already impressive enough. My favorite part of the city was the color that seemed to be everywhere we looked. From buildings to parks to statues, everything was filled with life and color.
I am really grateful that I had this opportunity (even though they do not have lacrosse over there). Just talking about it makes me want to go back. I learned so much about people and a fabulous culture, and my Spanish improved a lot. It helped me to appreciate living here, and also allowed me to understand and appreciate the differences in cultures everywhere.
Sophomore | Attack | Havertown, Pa.
During first block this summer, I had the chance to be a squad leader during Summer Seminar, where I was responsible for 10 high school students, giving them a taste of life as a midshipman at the Naval Academy. It was by far the best leadership training I have ever experienced.
During my second block, I truly learned the meaning of the phrase "Join the Navy, See the World," as I was sent to Japan for three weeks to follow an enlisted sailor on the USS Tortuga (LSD 46). Myself and two other midshipmen from the Naval Academy met the ship in Okinawa, Japan, home of some of the prettiest beaches in the Pacific.
We spent the 4th of July off the coast of South Korea, where we met sailors from the South Korean Navy and traded everything from snacks to baseball hats with their officers. Our ship was in its homeport of Sasebo during my final week, which gave us the opportunity to go snorkeling and explore places such as Nagasaki.
Our days were mostly spent sampling the local food and trying to learn the language, but by far the best cultural experiences were partaking in a Buddhist meditation service, as well as a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. I brought my lacrosse stick with me on the trip, however, most of the locals thought it was a fishing net!
Junior | Goalie | Greenfield Center, N.Y.
Major: Political Science
I spent two weeks in France this summer with (teammate) Morgan O'Brien. We stayed at the French Naval Academy for a week, then boarded French training ships (similar to YPs) and set off on an eight-day voyage. Our first four days were at sea and we arrived in Marin, Spain on a Friday, where we stayed for three days.
We then sailed to Lisbon, Portugal, where we spent another weekend. After that we went back to Ecole Navale (French Naval Academy) and attended their yearly formal ball. It was an amazing time and we learned so much and got some great cultural experience.