The ping of dribbled basketballs, the deep thud of a kicked soccer ball, and a choir of laughter echo onto the dusty road in front of the Community Center at Tres Reyes. Behind the gates, orchestrated flurries of kids – sporting new, green jerseys – yell, “I’m open!” as anxious parents cheer from the sidelines. Tournament Day of the Las Aguilas Sports Camp is nearly over. On the field, “Coach” Steve McCollum is about to blow the final whistle as 8-year-old Angel gets the soccer ball
The score is tied. Seconds remain.
Standing between him and victory is one person: petite 7-year-old Mellany, who’s been trying to tuck in her goalie vest to avoid tripping.
In July, Back2Back Cancun welcomed Steve and an excited crew of volunteers for the site’s first Las Aguilas Sports Camp. Among them were key partners in the creation of the center’s soccer field, the only one in Tres Reyes. For 17 years, Steve has brought eager participants to use play and sports to foster relationships and give hope at Back2Back sites.
The camp’s events reflected the goals of holistic care through soccer and basketball drills, a community meal, and, in addition, new elements of vacation Bible school and music. Mission guest, Anna Eltringham, used her skills in music therapy to create a unique space for kids to exercise their hearts and minds with new, donated instruments.
During the camp, kids learned new skills in a safe space. These skills coincided with a central truth: nothing is more powerful than someone being excited for you. The coaches’ instruction, freedom to make mistakes, and room to laugh drew teams closer. Through these shared experiences they learned to celebrate one another – even opposing teams. Seeking MVP or the most dramatic goal lost its luster. Instead, kids grew eager to compete and celebrate with joy and humility. These rhythms, though helpful on the field, will be a vital part of their future as community builders.
Near the goal, Angel looks down at the ball then up at Mellany, who’d been twirling on the field earlier. He jettisons it toward the goal. Mellany’s little hands and long, brown pigtails fly upward as she throws herself toward it.
The final whistle blows.
Mellany lands on the field, her untucked vest enveloping her as the net sits motionless; her small, conquering arms cling to the soccer ball. A roar of cheers and laughter overwhelms the anxious silence as both teams take to the field.
Angel helps Mellany to her feet, and they exchange a high-five. They leave the soccer ball behind and run toward their teams to celebrate together.