Athletics News

An Eye-Opening Trip for Grassroot Project Coaches

July 2, 2015

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Four George Washington student-athletes have returned home following an eye-opening trip to South Africa where they participated in the Grassroot Project Leadership Academy.

The relationship between GW athletics and the Grassroot Project, which aims to educate at-risk youth about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention through sports and games, will be entering its sixth year in 2015-16. In an effort to increase the personal development of four Grassroot Coaches, a two-week Leadership Academy was held in Cape Town, South Africa. The experience also served as a way to help determine the path of the strategic plan for The Grassroot Project.

"It was not a service trip, but rather a learning opportunity," said men's rowing junior David Lincoln. "It was a chance for us to see how individuals and groups are using the power of sport to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic all while developing a new generation of healthy and informed South Africans."

The four student-athletes participated in a number of workshops during their two-week trip. They also met with a variety of non-profit organizations to learn about how they operate, their development and plans for the future in order to gain a greater insight for their own work with The Grassroot Project.

"I gained so much knowledge about the ins and outs of running a non-profit," said women's soccer redshirt sophomore Erin Boudreau. "I think it is important that student-athletes and participants in Grassroot know how much effort and funding is required to administer programs in D.C. middle schools. What we are doing is a big deal and we can really make a positive impact."

Like their workshops back home in Washington, the Leadership Academy used sport to convey educational messages to the youth they were working with in South Africa.

"A highlight for me was a visit with an organization called Hoops for Hope, which uses basketball as a method of teaching children self-worth, resilience and numerous other life skills," explained Lincoln. "So much of what Hoops for Hope does is similar to The Grassroot Project - we even played some of the same exact games that we play with our kids. It was incredible seeing people do exactly what we do in schools in D.C. thousands of miles away in a different country."

"I loved visiting Grassroot Soccer in Khayeltisha, Cape Town, and Soweto, Johannesburg, because The Grassroot Project evolved from Grassroot Soccer," said Boudreau. "It was so refreshing to see such enthusiastic coaches that never seem to run out of energy. I would like to bring that same energy to our student-athlete coaches back home."

"It was awesome meeting with Grassroot Soccer," agreed women's cross country/track sophomore Lauren t'Kint de Roodenbeke. "It was great to see where our founder, Tyler Spencer, got his inspiration for starting The Grassroot Project and see the potential of what we can grow into and how far they have come in the past 10 years."

Lincoln, Boudreau and t'Kint de Roodenebeke, along with junior Seamus Roddy of men's cross country/track, also took advantage of the beautiful scenery in Cape Town, making the five-hour hike to the summit of Table Mountain.

"The hike up the mountain presented some challenges, even for a group of Division I student-athletes," said Boudreau. "I was concentrating so hard on looking at my feet and hands that the first time that I looked up I was able to see an extraordinary view of Cape Town. The views were breathtaking and beautiful and no picture could do it justice."

Returning to GW with an influx of knowledge on how to improve The Grassroot Project, the student-athletes are ready to hit the ground running when classes begin in August.

"Our trip helped me to put The Grassroot Project in a much more global perspective," said Lincoln. "I learned just how large the network of people passionate about sport for development and HIV prevention really is. Now that I am aware of that network, I hope to use it to help grow and improve the Grassroot Project even more."

"I think as an organization we need to spend a lot more time with our student-athlete coaches teaching them about the demographics of Washington, D.C., and exactly how to communicate with the participants who live in a completely different culture than many of our coaches," said Boudreau. "It will be a challenge to relay the things we learned in South Africa to training athlete coaches, but I think we have a great group of athletes that are willing to learn and develop to better connect with The Grassroot Project participants."

"Being able to be part of the strategic planning of moving this non-profit forward was the experience of a lifetime," said t'Kint de Roodenbeke. "The organizations and coaches that we met with were inspiring and their curriculum has evolved to cover a vast array of social issues that I think we can mold and incorporate into our own projects here in Washington, D.C."