Tuesday, October 26, 2010

PBS + Paying it Forward

As many of you may know, for the past year I have been coaching a football team here in Costa Rica and just to clarify I am talking about American football.  You know, the NFL, Friday Night Lights, sweating behemoths crashing into one another, FOOTBALL!

Football is in its infancy here, but is developing rapidly.  The sport started 3 years ago as a loosely connected league of 7 teams playing what can basically be described as a glorified tournament.  Last season, the second season, one of the seven teams was lost (unfortunately it was the first team I coached), but a weekly television program broadcasting highlights hit the air and the playoff games were also broadcast.  This year the government has officially recognized and sanctioned american football as a sport (http://ffacr.com/) making it easier to find fields to play and insure the players and 2 more teams are hitting the field (one of them is my new team the Scorpions).  There is even a flag football league starting to help develop younger players and spark interest in the sport.  

This may not seem like a big deal, being that the majority of my readers are from the United States and have been able to find an outlet for their own unique form of diversion.  We have the ability to play whatever, do whatever, or be whatever we want, but it is just not like that in the rest of the world.  There is always something  we can find that is just for us, something that makes us feel like we belong, just look at the Olympics and how many different sports we compete in.  Now check out some of the other countries.

What do they compete in? 

Do they compete in anything?

In Costa Rica, soccer is king.  Everyone plays soccer, everyone talks soccer, everyone watches soccer, and if you can't play soccer, oh well.  In families where a child plays soccer well and perhaps another not so much, well frankly the soccer star gets the glory.  Several months ago one of my players, a typical lineman, came up to me, almost in tears, to tell me how happy he was that he had something for him, something that finally made his family proud of him.  Now imaging that some Sunday, one of those gargantuan players bursting out in tears just for the opportunity to make his family proud.

For me personally, the sport has given me the opportunity to connect with like minded people and to really return to the battle. Even though I am not playing, I still feel like I am in the fight, I mean, even a general, or coach, is part of the war, right?  Also, I have been able to connect with several of my players and have been able to start a bible study and some one on one discipleships with some of the players.  It has really challenged me to live it out.

Now for the pitch, you knew it was coming.  Football is expensive.  Anyone that has ever played, or better yet been the parent of a player knows it all too well.  The trips to the ER are expensive,  the food consumed by a lineman bulking up to hit their ideal playing weight is expensive, the gym fees are expensive, and the gear is expensive.  Up there, for the most part, gear is provided by the team, or at least when I played, but here its every man for himself.  Helmets, shoulder pads, hip, thigh, and knee pads are all the responsibility of the player.  Not to mention, since the sport is so new there are no stores to buy the gear, it all has to be imported so shipping and import taxes have to be paid.  

To give you an idea of the costs involved.  Everything sold here, after shipping and taxes, sells for about double the original cost, plus a little something for the seller.  For example, you may know what, hip, thigh, knee and butt pads are.  They are little pieces of foam that you need to wear to play the game.  I just found them on sale at Amazon.com for about $20, but they sell here for about $100.  So the cost to equip each player is about $300-$500 (using second hand gear).  No big deal right?  If they want to play, they can find the money.  I read an article last year in La Nacion, a local and well respected newspaper, stating the average professional here earns about $700 a month.  So we are asking our players, most of whom have less than professional jobs, to give up a third to half maybe even more of their salary to play, not including the fees needed to enter into the league (over $100) and, well they just can't afford it, at least not now.

Most of the players that can't afford to buy gear immediately can make payments, but by the time they have all the money saved, we are into the season.  Since there are no stores to buy the gear, they wait for the gear which may not come until after the season is over.  We try and share the gear, but many guys get left out, or just so frustrated they quit.  To top it off, we get new players showing up almost every week, some very promising, but we lose so many because of the lack of equipment.

So here is my pitch a la PBS.  I would like help.  First and foremost, if anyone has any connections with football teams I am asking for donations of gear.  Colleges, high schools, even Pop Warner teams (many Costa Ricans are small) often get rid of their old gear at the end of the year, why not give it to us?  If you can get the gear, we have some connections to get it to us.  Second, if you would like to donate some funds please feel free.

Don't forget the premiums!

If you can give anything, I personally will get you a officially licensed sticker and 2 tickets to any of our games (they are all played in Costa Rica from February-April ***transportation and lodging not included***).  If you can donate $100 or more, you get the sticker, the tickets, plus an officially licensed Scorpions shirt.  A donation of $200 or more will entitle you to the sticker, the tickets, the shirt, plus an officially licensed Scorpions hat.  And finally, for your donation of an entire set of gear, $300 or more, you will receive the sticker, the tickets, the shirt, the hat, and football signed by the entire Scorpions team.

For less than a dollar a day you can help equip a Costa Rican to tackle his way into your heart.

Now for the Pay it Forward portion.  I don't want these players to get this gear for nothing, I want them to earn it.  Every player who receives donated gear will be paying it forward to someone else.  I will take payments from these players so we can use the re-payed money to purchase gear for someone else in the future.  Its really less of a freebie and more of an endowment seeded by you.  

Lastly, if you have any other ideas how you may help out, send me an email:

In an effort to spur you on, we have already had 3 sets of shoulder pads and helmets donated to players by other players, but we still need help!

2011 Update!

There were several issues with the football team, the Scorpions, that the coaching staff and the administration were trying to resolve before the 2011 season, but unfortunately the team folded. Almost all of the players and all of the coaches formed another team, the Rhynos, in only 2 weeks so we were able to salvage the 2011 season!

We competed in the 2011 season, finishing in 5th place (out of 6 teams) and are currently training for the 2012 season.  Despite being the newest team in the league, we are the ONLY Costa Rican team to play outside of Costa Rica.  The first time as the Scorpions in 2010 and we are currently preparing to play in Nicaragua in October, 2011.

If you previously donated to the cause and are waiting for your premiums, please be patient. I did not want to send out any gear for a non-existent team and I was trying to avoid speaking about the collapse of the Scorpions to protect all the individuals involved.  We are currently designing up some merch for the Rhynos and your packages will be sent out shortly.

Thank you for understanding.
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