Had the honor of speaking with the coach and two players from the Idaho Falls Fusion U-18 boys soccer team which made a service trip to Tijuana, Mexico, last week during spring break. This week’s column provides just a small glimpse into their experience. Thank you to one of the team parents, Mariann Hilton, for the head’s up on this story and for Jason, Isaac and Colman for taking time out of their practice on Wednesday to visit with me.
The Medal Stand: Local soccer team makes service trip to Mexico
While their classmates traveled to the likes of St. George, Las Vegas and Hawaii, a local travel soccer team spent spring break breaking sweat in Mexico for what they described as a life-changing opportunity.
Service was at the heart of the Idaho Falls Fusion U-18 boys soccer team’s trip to Tijuana last week. The athletes constructed a new house for a local family and saw firsthand how much their work meant.
Isaac Child, a Hillcrest junior, and Colman Petersen, a Bonneville junior, had minimal construction experience before the trip, but said their team came together quickly to complete the house. They were also humbled by the efforts of the members of the family who would be moving into it.
“They worked with us the whole time,” Child said. “Even the little 6 year-old boy was in there shoveling.”
“They had really poor living conditions,” Petersen added. “I used my limited knowledge of Spanish and I got to know the family really well. It made it hard to leave.”
Fusion head coach Jason Child, Isaac’s father, said the trip had been in the works for two years. With some help from the Charity Anywhere Foundation and input from close friends and family members who had completed similar service work trips, dates were finalized for this month. Although there was some apprehension about traveling to Mexico amidst the Trump administration’s current foreign policy stances, 17 athletes and two coaches traveled down along with a few parents.
Like several of his athletes, the work trip was a first for coach Child. Since his team returned and shared their experience with family members, future trips by other Bonneville Youth Soccer League teams have been discussed.
“One of my philosophies as a coach is I’m coaching men, not soccer players,” he said. “I wanted them to have an experience where they were a significant distance away from home and getting to experience things differently than what we have here in Idaho. When I came home and talked to my wife and my two younger daughters, I asked ‘Would you like to go down with me next spring break?’ They were excited seeing about our trip on Facebook. We have at least three BYSL teams interested in it.”
After the house was completed, the Fusion players participated in two matches against some Tijuana boys. Fusion won both games in an enthusiastic atmosphere, but Petersen and Isaac Child said the most powerful moment occurred after the games. A jersey swap occurred and a boy from the family they built the house for offered a large trophy — one of the few things of value he owned — as a prize.
“I had the chance to swap jerseys with a player I’d been playing against,” Isaac Child said. “At first, I didn’t want to do it. We’d been physical in the game and tackling each other. After I took my jersey off and gave it to him, he was so happy.”
Petersen also exchanged jerseys with a player he’d gone against, and the reaction was equally priceless.
“He came up to me and gave me the biggest hug,” Petersen said.
Petersen and Isaac Child said they were amazed at how content the people they met were despite their living conditions and how quickly they formed friendships despite the language barrier, and they will remember last week for the rest of their lives.
“We have so much more than we need here,” Petersen said. “I definitely saw I have more things than I need in my life.”
“I made sure to write a lot of things in my journal and take a lot of pictures,” Isaac Child said. “You didn’t really have to take a lot of pictures because so much was right in front of you, like when you see a 6 year-old boy smile at you. It was a lot of work and it is tiring, but I’ve never seen so much joy come from so many other people as well as us.”