When Ronald Torreyes was only 14 years old, he set off on a trip he now deems the “opportunity of a lifetime.” It was the first time he left his home country of Venezuela and traveled to the United States, as one of four youth from Venezuela and Nicaragua selected for a U.S. Department of State sports exchange program led by Partners of the Americas.
26-year-old Coach Uses Lessons from Sports-based Exchange in Life and with Team
Vanessa Arauz has blazed a trail of firsts leading up to becoming head coach of Ecuador’s Women’s National Soccer Team.
As a child, she was the only girl on her local soccer teams in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She is the first female soccer coach certified by the Ecuadorian Soccer Federation’s official coaches training center. Now, she leads Ecuador in it’s first-ever Women’s World Cup appearance and, at 26, is the youngest coach to ever head a World Cup team.
It’s not every day you receive an opportunity to speak at the United Nations, but last month, we were two of the lucky few. On Wednesday, April 15, we were invited to represent A Ganar at the United Nations’ “United Action towards Sustainable Development for All Through Sport” celebration in New York.
In front of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, and several diplomats and world class athletes, we shared our life-changing experiences through A Ganar and hopes for the future of sport-for-development.
Multiple disciplines – sports, the arts, STEM, music – have the power to change lives, particularly the lives of under-resourced youth. Because many sports are so familiar to children and families, however, they provide an especially easy draw. Once engaged, research demonstrates – over and over – that sports can positively impact cooperation, self-confidence, perseverance, and several additional non-cognitive skills; as well as physical attributes such as stamina, optimal body weight, and general health and fitness. This combination of mental/emotional/social/physical strength can be transferred to other life situations including school, work, civic engagement, and self-efficacy – all of which can ultimately contribute to personal empowerment and social impact.
Every young person deserves the chance to succeed, and empowered with the right tools, they can. Through A Ganar, we equip youth with the skills - communication, teamwork, respect, discipline, continual self-improvement, and a focus on results - to successfully return to school, gain employment, or start their own business. A Ganar makes a tremendous difference in the lives of young people, but it's not just youth that benefit from A Ganar.
While watching a live band perform at one of the many parties at the huge Austin, Texas based South by Southwest (SXSW) Music, Film, Technology, and Interactive Festival, a veteran sportswriter leaned over to me and said, “I’ve interviewed a lot of interesting people and done a lot of cool things, but I’ve always wanted to perform on a stage.” I agreed, being a rock star is one of those childhood dreams that has never gone away. While I may never bring down the house with my vocals, representing Partners of the Americas’ A Ganar program at SXSports was definitely way up on the “cool” list.