Just three miles apart, every year Walt Whitman High School and Bethesda Chevy Chase face off in the "Battle of Bethesda" between the two schools' soccer teams. This year, the girls' soccer JV and Varsity teams channeled their passion for this rivalry into a greater goal: playing for change with Soccer Without Borders and Positive Tracks.
Leading up to game day, the teams held bake sales, designed posters, and spread the word. Everything about the process was the living representation of the SWB mission: that soccer can be a vehicle for positive change, for individuals, teams, and communities. As if the high school scheduling bodies agreed, the game also happened to fall on September 21st, the United Nations International Day of Peace.
A tight game that ended 2-1 (we won't even tell you who for!), one of the most telling moments was when a father on one team snapped a picture of the opposing team scoring a goal. He approached the goal-scorer's mom after the game, offering her the photos to remember her daughter's goal, the shared pride of parenthood outweighing the divisiveness of a moment that could just have easily inspired frustration. The gesture is just one example of the way that the girls' commitment to building community was felt by everyone in attendance, despite the uncooperative rain.
"Even in a highly competitive game against our biggest rivals, we came together as one, to help give the experince of soccer to others who don't get to feel the beauty of the game as we have. It makes me overjoyed that, even though we are competing against each other, we are actually competing together for a purpose beyond us, beyond the win. A competition for others," shared Marley, the junior goal-scorer.
Together the teams raised $3,236.20 for SWB programs, a single-game record for the 2015 Ambassador program. Through the SWB partnership with Positive Tracks, the funds raised by the teams are a part of a matching challenge grant that doubles their impact (learn more about the Ambassador program).
At a time when there is so much in the news about divided communities and conflict, it is inspiring to see two high school rivals united by their shared passion for the world's game and a desire to play it forward for those who lack access. A huge thank you to both teams and event volunteers for their amazing efforts!
photo by Mike Flibbert