Just One of the Boys

Just One of the Boys

Chaviva Nicholas

Traveling Soccer and Service Team, Costa Rica 2019

Chaviva Nicholas a student working towards becoming a criminal defense lawyer | Attended The University of Arizona her freshman year where she was a starting defender on the Woman’s Club Lacrosse team | Currently studying at the University of Maryland College Park where she is double majoring in Criminology and African Studies

All photos have been provided by Chaviva. Read her story below!

Growing up as the youngest girl of four boys, I was no stranger to finding myself going 1V1 with the boys at our neighborhood basketball court. Little did I know that would benefit me in my two-week trip to Costa Rica.

Summer of 2019 I took part in the ‘Soccer and Service Trip’ where in the morning myself and the group would take part in community service, and spend the rest of the day playing soccer. It was fitting since the FIFA World Cup was that summer as well. I vividly remember building up the anticipation to play soccer in another country as I sat in the airport watching the USA Women’s National Team beat Thailand 13-0.

While I was excited to play soccer in another country, I was the only girl on our 12 person soccer team. Even though I played soccer all throughout high school, I never found myself playing on a co-ed team, or in this case being the only girl on a co-ed team.

At the start of our first practice I remember how intimidating all the boys seemed… how tall and strong they were, their accomplishments in the sport and the way they could juggle the soccer ball for what seemed like forever. I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the situation I found myself in. Nevertheless, I continued to work hard to prove to everyone and myself that I belonged on that team.

My fellow teammates and coaches were extremely supportive of me, and never thought any less of me because I was the only girl. I truly believe that was due to the welcoming and accepting community Rustic Pathways created. Above all, throughout the trip, I noticed a shift in the way I held myself. I found myself not only developing my soccer skills, but I found myself gaining more confidence in both on and off the field.

While I enjoyed playing soccer everyday with the boys, my most memorable moments on the trip were the movements of culture immersion. For instance, while we traveled all over Costa Rica, we found ourselves in a village where we stayed with host families. All the families opened us with open arms and showed us how they come together as a community to build and support each other. It was truly inspiring to witness a community/neighborhood filled with so much pride and love. They all genuinely embrace the county’s motto of Pura Vida, which translates to “pure life” and emphasizing living life to the fullest.

Along with that, the constant support allowed me to gain confidence and pride in being the only girl on the soccer team. In turn, I found myself performing better in our soccer games and matches. Moreover, my trip opened my eyes to see that soccer in itself is its own language. Despite the language barrier between my team and our opponents, we still understood and above all respected each other in the game.

Above all, my trip to Costa Rica not only improved my skills as a soccer player, but provided me with the foundations to advocate for gender equality in sports and especially in modern culture. I am beyond grateful for my experience in Costa Rica, as it reminded me that gender is not an obstacle in sports. In fact, it is a way for everyone from different races, ethnicities, and genders to unite. Thank you Costa Rica, and thank you Rustic Pathways for providing an unforgettable experience.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in Costa Rica, or view more Alumni Stories here