Softball Trio Goes Beyond Sports in South Africa
Recent alumnae Mary Adams ’17 (theatre and performance and cinema studies) and Briana Leon ’17 (psychology) joined current student Kelly Hayes ’19 (arts management) this past June on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa to take part in a Beyond Sports Foundation program.
Through shared dinners with opponents, service-learning clinics for local youth, and plenty of games, the softball standouts lived the mission of Beyond Sports—to use the power of sport to transform lives by turning athletic ability into life opportunity.
The women joined nearly seventy participants from around the US who were assigned to four teams that played against local South African teams.
The players also took part in excursions that included hiking Table Mountain, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, a safari ride in the Western Cape, and diving with sharks off Seal Island. They also learned about the history of South Africa at Castle of Good Hope and the District Six Museum.
Adams says there is no better way to learn than by experience.
“It is why I’m an actor. It is why I’m an athlete. You can give me a picture of a big mountain, but I won’t understand what it is until I climb it. You can show me a weird colored jam, but I won’t know if I like it until I taste it. You can stand in front of a classroom and tell me about the history of apartheid, but I won’t relate to it until I meet those that have gone through it. I think that is why Kelly, Bri, and I were so excited for this opportunity to play softball in Africa. We were curious.”
Leon explains she jumped at the chance to blend her love of both softball and travel with the opportunity to give back, and says she learned more than expected.
“First of all, I learned that we should be so grateful every day for what we have and what we dare complain about. Some of these kids had almost nothing and showed up to these clinics as happy as can be just because they were living another day with friends, family, and the opportunity to meet ‘Americans,’” she says. “It’s hard to put into words, but I learned a lot from the locals and the girls that joined us from all over the country.”
Love of Sport is Universal
For Hayes, the most valuable lessons came through teaching softball skills to over 100 local children.
“It was amazing to see two completely different cultures come together and bond over playing a sport. We didn’t even have to speak the same language to connect to them,” she says.
“This is the day that I realized how sports are universal….It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, white or black. The only thing that matters is your love for the sport, and your opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Even if I didn’t make a difference in their lives, they definitely made a difference in mine.”