Coach for College
Recently graduated women's soccer player Gabrielle Gilbert is currently volunteering in Vietnam as a part of Coach for College . The organization gives current and recently graduated student-athletes the opportunity to teach and coach disadvantaged youth in rural parts of developing countries in a global initiative to promote higher education through sports. Gilbert will be blogging on her experiences for GamecocksOnline.com throughout the next month.
June 8, 2014
Hi everyone! My name is Gabrielle Gilbert, or Gabby for short, and I had the privilege of playing soccer for South Carolina the past four years. Being a student-athlete I had the honor of being selected for a program called Coach for College. I am a very adventurous person who loves meeting people and trying new things and this opportunity gave me the chance to do all that while helping kids in need and teaching them the sport I love--soccer. I'm so excited for what's in store for me in Vietnam and can't wait to come back with stories, photos and videos!
In order to get to Ho Chi Minh City, I had to first take a 15-hour flight to Hong Kong and then another two-hour flight before arriving. The first flight felt like an eternity, but luckily there was a fellow Coach for College coach on the flight as well. When we arrived in Hong Kong, we were able to leave the airport because we had a 10-hour layover, which was perfect timing to leave the airport and explore Hong Kong a little. Upon arrival in Vietnam, the Coach for College director met us at the airport and brought us to our hotel for the next two nights. The hotel was nothing like a westernized hotel. Shoes had to be removed before entering, the shower head next to the toilet with no curtain or wall, and the toilet paper roll provided had a little lizard in it!
After touring the city for a day and meeting all the other NCAA student-athletes, we had a five-hour bus ride to Hau Giang. It was a long, hot, bumpy ride. It was really eye opening being in such an impoverished area. We start camp tomorrow and I'm so excited to meet the kids! I will be teaching them health and coach coaching them soccer.
June 10, 2014First day!
June 15, 2014
Week one is complete! Despite 12-hour days of intense heat and being on our feet, the camp has been nothing but fun. The kids are so energetic and ready to learn. Everyday that our bus arrives at camp, we pass all of our students riding their bikes on the one-way road, eager for camp.
The soccer lesson for this week has been dribbling and passing. I have seen some major improvements in many of them, however they are at a major setback because they play barefoot and the soccer field is hard sand. Nonetheless, they are working hard and are so happy to be in the presence of all of the coaches.
In class we spoke to the kids about why it's important to strive for a higher education. The drop out rate in Vietnam is very high so we are trying to change the mindset here. The students who do want to go to college were asked to say why they wanted to. Their responses brought tears to all the counselors' eyes. One boy said that his parents had suffered so much and have struggled from being so poor that he wants to help them and his future family have a better life. Being here truly reminds me of how blessed we are in the western world with the smallest of things.
I look forward to the second week as I learn more about these wonderful kids and their heartwarming stories.
June 17, 2014
June 18, 2014
I'm at the halfway point of my Coach for College experience! It's hard to believe, I feel like I have been here so much longer than just two weeks. The kids are finally starting to open up to us all, which is so nice to see. Today the kids were asked to write what they would like to see in Vietnam in 20 years time and almost all of them wrote that they no longer wanted straw huts as homes, but rather large, high-building homes with beautiful gardens and lots of hospitals.
At the end of class today, I gave away eight pictures of myself playing soccer for South Carolina. The kids almost hurt each other for one. I even had to stop a fight over one! But it was so nice to see something so simple make them so happy.
This week's topic for soccer class been shooting. The kids especially had lots of fun shooting at me in goal!
Today after camp a volleyball player from Dartmouth and myself ran back to our hotel from camp. It was such a neat experience running on unpaved roads through a dense jungle filled with exotic plants and animals. Those Vietnamese that lived in the houses along the way stopped what they were doing to watch two tall white girls running through their backyard! They had never seen anything like that before. Some even pulled over on their scooters.
Despite missing my family, friends and American food at times, I'm absolutely loving every second here and am so excited for every new day.
June 23, 2014
This week the Coach for College group headed to Can Tho, Vietnam. This city is the heart of the Mekong delta, and where southern Vietnam's largest university is. Many of the Vietnamese translators from our Coach for College group attend the university and call Can Tho their hometown. This was definitely my favorite place we have been to yet! It was a major city, yet not too hectic like Ho Chi Minh, with a beautiful tropical feel and the attractions of a college town. One of the nights we went to a very authentic, famous Vietnamese restaurant. I felt like a fish out of water; however my Vietnamese friends assured me that if you were at this restaurant people viewed you as a local. The only food the restaurant served were the veggies and meat to make your spring rolls. They were absolutely amazing! The best food I have had yet.
We were also able to go to a cocoa farm one day. It was so interesting to see a Vietnamese version of a farm--it looked more like a jungle to me. It was so beautiful. Chickens roamed the grounds, bright flowers grew naturally, cocoa plants were everywhere and bananas, oranges, limes and tons of other Vietnamese fruits were being grown. We were able to make our own chocolate bars from the cocoa trees there. It was so delicious!
We are headed into our last week of camp and I am already dreading saying goodbye to my students and the new friends I have made. I wish I could bring every child back and give them the opportunities I have had in my life.