Ohio Wesleyan University is full of opportunities for students of all interests. Each semester, many students take advantage of being able to study abroad.
Student-athletes usually cannot take advantage of this opportunity because traveling out of the country interferes with practice and seasons.
Two Ohio Wesleyan student-athletes, however, were offered a different opportunity that involved both studying abroad and the ability to maintain their skills on the field.
Catcher Brooke Nethers ’13, a microbiology and pre-med major with a Spanish minor, and pitcher Erika Reese ’13, a middle childhood Education major, had the opportunity to join Beyond Study Abroad, a program developed by two former student-athletes, Grant Leslie and Josh Erikson, who weren’t able to study abroad because of their athletic schedules.
This is a program “where coaches can encourage their athletes to go abroad during their off-season, knowing that the athlete will maintain their dedication to training and development,” says Leslie. Students travel to Costa Rica to study while still being able to practice and train for their sport.
Participants take intensive Spanish language courses to prepare for the program. While in Costa Rica, they are offered a wide range of classes taught in English and Spanish. Another opportunity provided for the athletes in Beyond Study Abroad is the ability to train with the Costa Rican national soccer team, as well as with other university and college teams of various sports.
Aside from practicing and studying, Reese and Nethers were volunteering as coaches for “disadvantaged Costa Rican youth twice weekly and [were] able to practice the Spanish they learned in the classroom in a real-world setting while providing valuable support to children in need,” says Leslie.
When Reese and Nethers looked back on their time in Costa Rica, the main topic of discussion was not the beautiful weather and attractions; it was the children whom they met and coached.
“The trip had an incredible impact on my view of the world and the power of human will. The strength of not only the children we worked with but of the entire community is still astonishing to me,” says Nethers.
Reese agrees, saying,” It would be an understatement to say that this experience changed my life. There is an element to living, studying, and volunteering with the people of Costa Rica that students cannot appreciate until they return back to the U.S.”
This journey has changed both women’s points of view on athletes, as well. Reese hopes to show the Ohio Wesleyan softball team the intense physical training they experienced in Costa Rica. But more than that, she hopes to help her teammates avoid taking for granted the game they play or the teammates with whom they play it. Reese believes that once her teammates recognize the love they all have for the game and each other, the happiness and passion they feel will show on the field.
“This experience made me look at myself differently as an athlete. It made me realize that on days where I may not have played my best, instead of getting down on myself and being negative I need to instead focus on the positives and the fact that I had the opportunity to play. Many of the kids we worked with are going to be amazing athletes but sadly, the majority of them will never get a chance to showcase their skills on a team like I get to every day. Now, instead of looking at myself as a talented or hardworking athlete, I see myself as a blessed and grateful athlete,” says Nethers.