Editors Note: This article was contributed as a human interest story to illustrate the importance of sports as an outreach and communications framework that should be protected from cyber attack.
By R. Stein
Colorado School of Mines
On July 29, twenty-seven women soccer players from Colorado School of Mines, along with the coaching staff, left for San Jose, Costa Rica to start a riveting journey aimed at sports and training exchange. The next eight days consisted of intensive competition: three soccer games against local club teams, and two soccer clinics. It also consisted of intensive play: zip lining, hiking, exploring, and indulging in native cuisine.
Colorado School of Mines is located in Golden, Colorado and is one of the top engineering schools in the U.S. with a little under 5,000 undergraduate students. Its women’s soccer team has recently become a powerhouse in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and has won the division title the past five years. With this success, the team has garnered the support and encouragement from locals in the Golden community. Likewise, the team supports the community through soccer outreach programs and camps, and tutors elementary students in math. With the generosity of some alumni and donors, Mines women’s soccer was finally able to achieve the funding to pursue the trip of a lifetime to Costa Rica.
Head coach Kevin Fickes and assistant coach Shannon DeVoe had spent years trying to get the team to go on an international trip. Once the funding was obtained, they decided to use Beyond Sports Tours to organize the trip. This is a company that has now represented 350 universities in countries including Costa Rica, South Africa, Spain, and Australia. Beyond Sports focuses on creating a valuable experience for college teams—allowing them to compete against high-level international teams as well as immersing them into the cultures of the country.
A connection through soccer—or fútbol—brought the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers to El Roble, Alajuela where they spent time with the local academy team, practicing soccer skills and sharing cultures. There were several groups of local players, including both boys and girls, who attended this clinic; their ages ranged from 5 to 14 years old. Within this group were the under-14 girls’ national champions who had worked tirelessly to achieve this honor. These girls made a lasting impression and showed the Orediggers what Costa Rican soccer is all about. Even though there was a slight language barrier, both teams were able to discover a new aspect of soccer that they will never forget—speaking the same language isn’t necessary to participate in a fun, active soccer training session.
The coach of the academy, Manuel Ruiz, has had a great impact on the children to not only be great players, but to also be dedicated students. As we witnessed, he encourages the players to work hard in school by rewarding good grades with prizes at practice. After the session was over, the members of the both teams got together and—with the translation help of tour guide Silvia Betancourt—they told the Orediggers when they first started playing soccer and why they loved it. Most of the young players claimed that their favorite part of the game was the friends they made and said they looked forward to coming to practice because their team is like family. This is a common theme with the Mines soccer team as well.
The Costa Rica trip was the highlight of the summer for the players on the Mines women’s soccer team. As a team, we gained camaraderie and respect for the game and experienced international travel that few of us ever dreamed of. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our coaches, the program, and of course, for the people and the players we met in Costa Rica for allowing us to have this experience…pura vida!
 Here we were taught the common Costa Rican phrase “pura vida,” meaning “pure life”, this saying is an everyday greeting and is used as a reminder that life should be enjoyed and worry-free. Not surprisingly, Costa Rica has been said to be one of the happiest countries in the world—since “pura vida” is not just a phrase, but a lifestyle.