By Victoria Mahoney '19
Mahoney is a rising senior pitcher on the St. Joseph's College softball team who was an All-Skyline selection in 2017 and was recently elected to the Bears SAAC executive board as vice president for the 2018-19 school year.
I was recently lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to travel to Cape Town, South Africa from June 18 - July 1 with Beyond Sports. Along my trek overseas I was accompanied by a group of 27 other college softball players (DII, DIII, and NAIA players). Over our two weeks abroad, the once group of strangers from all across the country quickly became close friends with whom I shared memories to last a lifetime.
Through shared meals, service-learning clinics for local youth, and plenty of softball, we learned to live the mission of Beyond Sports - to use the power of sports to transform lives by turning athletic ability into life opportunity.
A major portion of our time in South Africa was devoted to the three clinics we hosted. The first clinic was organized with the help of The Cape Town Softball Association, it was located in Turfhall Stadium in Cape Town and consisted of approximately 40 kids ages ranging from 4-21. The second clinic was at Tyholora Primary School in Thembalethu, George which consisted of approximately 120 kids ages ranging from 8-14. The third clinic was held at Project Playground in Langa Township, Cape Town with 140 kids ages ranging from 4-18.
I am forever humbled by the experiences I had at these clinics. I worked with the local kids, many of whom had never played softball before were simply there to meet 'Americans'. This made me realize just how blessed I am for everything and everyone I have in my life.
Despite many of the kids having barely anything, they showed up with some of the biggest smiles on their faces, excited to simply meet us and learn what we had to show them. The time spent at these clinics working with the local children was life-altering, the love that the kids showed to the sport and each other in addition to us as strangers, was absolutely amazing to be a part of.
It was incredible to see two completely different cultures come together and bond over playing a sport. We did not even have to speak the same language to be able to connect with each other. Even though I spent the days teaching them softball, these children taught me so much more about life without realizing it.
In addition to the clinic portion of the trip, we spent some time learning about South African history and culture. We visited Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of incarceration, the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest existing colonial building in all of South Africa it is considered to be the best preserved example of a Dutch East India Company fort, Langa Township, the oldest of the townships in the Western Cape a bitter legacy of the Apartheid era, and the District Six Museum, a memorial to the forced movement of 60,000 inhabitants of various races in District Six during the Apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s.
During our stay, we hiked Table Mountain, one of the new seven wonders of nature, and enjoyed a Big Game Safari Ride in the Western Cape where we had close encounters with giraffes, zebras, rhinos, elephants, lions, and cheetahs. We also visited Boulders Beach where we were able to view African penguins swimming along the shoreline; we even went cage diving with great white sharks off of Seal Island in Mossel Bay.
I am beyond thankful for this eye-opening opportunity to represent St. Joseph's College Softball overseas. I have gained a whole new level of appreciation for the opportunities this sport has given me. Beyond Sports is an amazing organization that I can't wait to travel with again.
Beyond Sports was established in 2010 and has grown to become the world leader in international sports tours. It is the first study abroad program designed specifically for student-athletes. They work to create mutually beneficial opportunities for US student-athletes, international athletes, and international youth to enjoy a life-changing cross-cultural experience through sport.