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The Griffin

Pan-American visit reaps bounties

Daniel Krugman, Sports Editor

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Stepping onto the all-dirt field for the first time I immediately noticed the thick lines of barbwire surrounding the lineless field with two iron goals at each end. At the time, while only thinking about the plethora of scenarios that a 15-year-old white American male could face while being alone in the most dangerous nation in the world, I had no idea how much this dirt field, the players of CF Shashos and the people of Honduras would come to mean to me.
After four trips to the small hill town of Copan Ruinas in the Western region of Honduras, I have learned the importance of sports in its simplest form, on a simple field with a ball and with people who solely play because of their love for the game.
In America, we idolize sports as a struggle to get a full ride scholarship or make it to the pros. From the youngest age groups of youth football, lacrosse and basketball kids are groomed to attend powerhouse schools. Sports at the professional level is a business and the road to this business has become plagued by parental aspirations of their children as professional athletes and the notion that sports are glamorous.
The children of the small Mayan-descended towns, listed as living in extreme poverty according to the United Nations World Bank, and even the young adults of CF Shashos, a semi-pro club team composed of educated social workers in Copan, could not have a more different outlook than the American mindset.
They play because it is the only game they have ever known. It is a break from the fields and motivation to go to school for the children, and for the Shashos, a brief escape from the reality of drug crime and homicide that plague their generation.
What the people of Honduras taught me is that sports are more than the scholarships, commitments and money. I once was part of this sports culture in America, idolizing the idea of college soccer and forgetting about why I played, only looking at the potential outcome of working hard for this one goal.
I have been fortunate enough to share over 2,000 physical donations of cleats, shin guards, jerseys and donated indestructible soccer balls from One World Play Project, an internationally renowned manufacturer of soccer balls for third world countries, with the children of Honduras. But for every new ball they get to play with or new pair of cleats they get to wear, the memories and mindset that they have installed in me will always be greater.
Reflecting back on my last trip and now as I enter the final stretch of my soccer career, I see how much irrational pressure we put on our young athletes to succeed and how much more I, and other athletes, would love sports if we played as if all we had was a dirt field and love of the game.

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