Elliott Poynter - After School Sports in Costa Rica
This is my story of a sports placement with Projects Abroad. I manage to pass it off as a global perspective module for university as well, so it was a double bonus. From the beginning Projects Abroad were really accommodating about the placement with regards to length and starting dates. This was also true once I had arrived in Costa Rica.
I was based in Liberia, the capital town in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. I wasn't given a particular team or age group but helped coach soccer for an area of Moracia. There was a good mix of gender and age ranges. The main man was Guido; he owned the Centro Deportivo S.A sport shop and the gymnasium were all the Futbolito was played.
I was met by Matthew, Assistant Director and a good lad, at the bus station as I requested and he took me to see my home stay family. They turned out to be absolutely fantastic from day one and did far too much for me. My home stay mother was Beatrix with her 2 sons, 3 lodgers, the dog, 4 horses, and parrot who actually spoke more Spanish than me. However he only got to eat bread and not any of the many tasty dishes, so was safe in saying I left with the upper hand. Two hints to anyone who gets this best family, 1 - the joke what's orange and sounds like a parrot.... a Carrot, doesn't work in Spanish and, 2 - drink as much of that home made fresco as you can, its Christmas in a glass.
After that we went for a tour of town and saw all of the hotspots; the front of the church, café Liberia (where the quiz happens), the school where the coaching sessions were, the gymnasium and anything else you wanted to know. Don't worry you also get taken to the Hotel Sitio and Bar Luna, great places to have a awesome laugh with the other volunteers and new friends.
My actual placement started on my first day, that was my choice as you are given time to settle into your new surroundings. I met Walter Farid, the head coach of all Moracia teams, including ones at the school. The heat wasn't a real issue, but it was hard standing in glorious sunshine with beautiful scenery having a laugh with players and doing what you enjoy! Everyone is so interested in what you have to say and you become what seems a local hero. They are soccer crazy and you get so carried away with the games. Luckily it was mostly winning for Moracia - a word of warning for other volunteers that help different teams.
Some of the players have unbelievable talent for their age and are a pleasure to work with; Julie a girl of 7 was probably the best I saw. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming that you wanted to do more. Becoming part of the Moracia spirit I had to get involved. Teaching at the local school I spent most of my time within the Physical Education department but I also helped with English and Maths. Projects Abroad were more than happy with the extra involvement and supported all the volunteers in achieving the very most of their placement.
They also encourage and recommend activities for volunteers to do during their placements. These include volcano Arenal, scuba diving, bungee jumping, Tamarindo beach, Nicaragua and a must do activity weekend including mud baths, canopy tours, horse riding and tubing. A lovely lady called Carmen, another of the Projects Abroad staff will be more than happy to help you.
Costa Rica is an amazing country, with such different cultures, food and of course language. Learning Spanish was one of my highlights and you easily pick it up chatting to everyone. I managed to learn a bit in my travels around Costa Rica before my placement, but you don't have to do this. Lessons can be arranged through Projects Abroad with fellow volunteers and a lovely teacher.
There were loads of highlights in my one month on the sports project. One advantage of doing soccer is being able to arrange sports for the volunteers, much like a soccer match that we played in. We only just got beat (32-11) but it was quality having the lads together with the fantastic girls support. Also you have got to try the strawberry milkshake at Paso Real.
All I can say, is enjoy your placement, make the most of it and I bet you 200 Colones that you have a ball over there. Going to try my hardest and get back over.
P.S Make sure you have enough shower gel as that is quite limited, the Tico's prefer the old shampoo then soap method.