This January, Fútbol Sin Fronteras Nicaragua kicked off 2021 with its TEAM Camp to welcome in the new year with fun activities and bring participants together. TEAM stands for Trabajando en Equipo Aprendemos Más, or working as a team we learn more, which took on even greater meaning as in-person programming has been limited over the last year. Despite the challenges presented by the global pandemic, this marked the 14th anniversary of the camp, showing the resilience of the community. Spread out across several days and groups, hundreds of female athletes, ranging from elementary- to university-aged, participated in the programming that utilized mask-wearing and other COVID-19 safety precautions.
“We were excited to welcome the participants despite the risk and exposure. We wanted to give them joy and fun and tell them how much we miss them,” said coach Francisca Alvarez. “The kids are an inspiration to us and it forces us to be more committed to them in order to give them a lot of fun.”
COVID-19 and associated lockdowns and closures have created and exacerbated challenges for many participants. Youth in Nicaragua have been experiencing increased stress, higher rates of suicide, and higher rates of domestic violence. This TEAM camp created a welcoming environment for participants where they felt they could express their emotions at a critical time when such safe spaces are less accessible.
Participants have come to expect this camp at the beginning of each new year, and continuing it throughout the pandemic has grounded many of them, as well as coaches, at a particularly difficult time.
“Being able to share these moments with them was the most amazing thing we could have done at the beginning of 2021,” said coach Kimberly Diaz. “We are hopeful that with safety measures in place, anything can be possible.”
The camp also marked the first time that elementary-aged players have been back on the field together since their activities went virtual last year. This was a milestone moment for the participants, FSF program staff, and the community. It also welcomed a large cohort of alumni coaches, continuing to build upon the trend of increased and ongoing engagement with alumni, and creating pathways from participant to coach.
Perhaps most importantly, participants reported having huge amounts of fun and felt the camp marked a transition back to normalcy. In addition to their work on the soccer pitch, Fútbol Sin Fronteras and all Soccer Without Borders programs continue to prioritize the emotional and mental health of our participants. Events like the TEAM Camp do exactly that, creating safe spaces where participants can play and express themselves freely.