For a while, Costa Rica had been at the top of my list of destinations. However, I wasn’t just looking for a vacation spot, I was instead looking for a unique experience. I started researching online volunteer programs and happened to find one coaching soccer in Costa Rica. With my soccer coaching background, this seemed like the perfect fit. https://www.volunteerworld.com/…/soccer-assistant-coach…
I arrived in San Jose, late Saturday night on December 4th and was picked up by Alvis, who works for the volunteer organization. Since it was first my first time in CR, it was nice to immediately meet a friendly local or as they call themselves here: Ticos. He then brought me and another volunteer who was doing a different program in Uvita, to his house where we stayed for the night. The following day he took us both to the bus station where we hopped on a bus and about 4 hours later, we were in the small Western coastal town of Uvita.
Uvita is known for its beaches and The Marino Ballena National Park, which basically consists of the beach and the surrounding habitat. After taking a quick taxi ride, I arrived at the house of my host family for the next 2 weeks. The house is kind of a combination of a youth hostal and family home, consisting of the grandmother, Mayela, her granddaughter Melissa, and great grandson Jorny. Mayela’s daughter and family live nearby and are often over at the house helping out. The stay with Mayela as well as 2 meals/day are part of the program. Luckily, Mayela is a fantastic cook and even used to cook in a nearby restaurant.
The following afternoon I began helping coach soccer for local youth ages 6-15. The soccer program is part of an academy and there are several other volunteers helping out that had already been in town for a while. George from Bermuda, Grace from England, Pasquale from Germany and Yerim from France. Practices continued each afternoon for the next couple days.
There were a couple days without practices, so I took advantage by hitting the beach and doing a whale watching tour. Unfortunately, the whales were on vacation from Uvita, but there was still plenty to see including birds, dolphins, and great landscapes. Snorkeling was also included in the tour. Although most of the fish also seemed to be on vacation, I was still able to get some good GoPro footage.
The other volunteers and I were invited to the team BBQ at one of the players houses. It was an extremely nice house on top of a hill, with a beautiful pool and view of the ocean. This experience was what locals say: Pura Vida! Or in other words, living life!
The following day, Saturday was game day. Each age group had a game against another local town, with 4 total games played for the day. I was chosen to referee the second game of the day and did a good enough job to not get yelled at by any fans, players or coaches.
That concludes my first week in Costa Rica, I won’t have to do much coaching this week, so I plan on doing a lot of cool things in and around Uvita, hope you’ll stay tuned! Thanks for reading as always, I hope you’re running good on and off the felt!