Side of Sport
How competitive athletes contribute around the world By Emily Cook
Connecting with kids
through Right to Play.
A red ball whizzed by my feet, soon to be followed by a young girl, laughing as
she executed quick footwork on the makeshift soccer field. We spoke a different language and came from different backgrounds, but the joy of sport brought us together
on a playing field in Aqaba, Jordan. At the end of the soccer game, we gathered with a
group of boys and girls to talk about what we had learned on the court that afternoon.
Guided by a local community leader, we discussed the dynamic on the field, and how,
despite our many differences, we were able to work together, communicate and share
an experience of camaraderie and teamwork.
For these children, who have seen hardships many of us could not imagine, sport
brings joy and life lessons — valuable to their communities and future endeavors.
For the athletes involved, it provided the chance to make a profound difference with
individual children. The experience also helped develop programs with the organization Right to Play in Jordan and, for us, fostered memories for a lifetime.
Sport provides a platform for contribution, one of the aspects I value most about being
an athlete. Across USSA, many athletes have set a precedent of looking beyond their
own playing fields to make the world a better place.
Cross country skier Kikkan Randall dominated the World Cup tour this season, becoming the first American to take home the Joska crystal globe in her sport since Bill Koch
in 1982. In what little downtime her training provides, she serves as an ambassador for
Canadian competitor Chandra Crawford’s Fast and Female, a nonprofit organization
dedicated to getting more young girls involved in sport.
My experience at a Fast and Female event hosted at the U.S. Ski Team’s Center