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Sloan Hanson: A Day of Victory, Defeat and Hospitality During Soccer Camp in Costa Rica

By the second day of soccer camp, participants were already showing improvement.
By the second day of soccer camp, participants were already showing improvement.  (Sloan Hanson photo)

By Sloan Hanson |

[Noozhawk note: Sloan Hanson, 14, of Santa Barbara is visiting a poor, seaside village in Costa Rica and leading a soccer camp he helped create, called Clinica de Futbol Pura Vida. This is the second of five installments about his experience. Click here for the first one.]

Tuesday, July 8

The day began the same with roosters crowing and the sun beating down. We got prepared and headed out to the field, stopping for coffee my mother so desperately wanted, of course.

The hospitality of the Costa Ricans continues to show. The man who managed the field had cut the grass for us. We decided it would be better to set up in the shade. Camp starts at 8, but many kids showed up at 7:30 ready to play, which showed me how much they enjoyed the camp. It was a really wonderful feeling to know you have made an impact in their lives.

We had a lot more kids today and actually used all 40 of the balls we’d brought. The kids in my group showed some improvement in their skill moves. And when it came to shooting, they did really well also. The goalie, Manuel, who is extremely helpful when we set up and clean up, was skilled for his age. In the games, my group was passing more instead of trying to take everyone on by themselves. This showed that they are learning more teamwork as well as skills.

When camp started, I was worried that we wouldn’t have anyone wanting to play goalie in our small-sided games, but that proved to be wrong. Everyone wanted to be in goal. It could be the success of the Costa Rican goalie Keilor Navas, or maybe the goalie gloves I brought, which were extremely popular.

soccer camp
Brian gives a thumbs-up after tying for the most points in drills and games. (Sloan Hanson photo)

Each day at the end of the camp we give out prizes for the most points for skill in the drills and games. Today, Isaac and Brian tied for the most points. They had a shoot-out and all the kids gathered around the goal, chanting their friend’s name, clapping and cheering as Isaac and Brian focused on their shots. I smiled and clapped with them, loving to see them having so much fun. When Isaac won, they gathered around him jumping and yelling as if he’d scored a goal in the World Cup.

Dennis and Kyle invited us over for lunch, which was a very cool experience; as my mother would say, it was bohemian. They had gathered a group of people interested in humanitarian service. They ranged from Costa Rican to American to Spanish. Most were living with Dennis and Kyle like a big family. Each person had their own job to better their communities.

We ate around a huge table with the surf crashing below us, above us trees that housed monkeys and tiger herons, and chickens pecking in the dirt everywhere. They recently lost a chicken to a boa constrictor. We ate squash lasagna, spaghetti and salad made from produce they grew organically. They said pasta was rare for them; most of their meals consisted of rice and beans.

They had handcrafted their house from recycled materials. It was cozy and had a quintessentially tropical paradise view with lush trees and rolling surf beyond. We stayed at their house to witness the worst Brazilian blowout ever. Brazil was defeated 7-1 in the World Cup, leaving their country in tears.

One aspect of the game that I thought was interesting was the fact that the Costa Ricans with us cheered for Brazil because the Brazilian team had acted like an older brother to their team during the World Cup. As interest in the game lagged, we turned again to conversation. Dennis told us that our camp was the talk of the town.

Happy to have shared our love of soccer, we ended another day.

— Sloan Hanson, 14, resides in Santa Barbara.

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