By: Lisa Stevens
This June, Pandoo Foundation conducted an End of Season Volleyball Tournament as the final event in their first Sports & Leadership project. Held at the Cebu City Sports Institute, the event was a whole-day round-robin of games amongst the leagues’ four teams, facing off to use teamwork and leadership skills to achieve ultimate glory.
Seeing the girls come together in this tournament was amazing. There was so much fire and passion on the court and the concentration in their faces really showed that the Pandoo mission “to engage children” was hard at work. All teams fought to show their skills and even those who were not as strong showed me they had absorbed the message of the program when they continued smiling, cheering and congratulating team members even in the face of imminent losses.
Of course, things don't always go to plan. At one-point harsh word were exchanged when some players felt that others in their team were not playing to the best of their ability. Such words hurt not only team moral but ultimately the self-esteem of some individuals. As I sat with one girl, she told me that she was upset not only for the harsh words, but because she felt that in letting her team down, she was also letting the Foundation down and if she did that she would have failed to achieve and make her family proud. She wanted to show them she could be successful in sport so they would believe she was able to help in overcoming other challenges in their home life.
For me this was an incredibly profound moment. It helped me to realize the true brevity of the work we are doing with these kids. Sports provides an outlet for many to let off steam, to stay fit and give them something to do in their spare time. But it can be so much more than that. Sport is a way to set goals and challenge ourselves to achieve them. Sport is a way to push ourselves mentally and physically to our limits and come out better for the experience. Sport is a way to join together with others that share our passion and drive so that together we can achieve more than we ever could if we had stood alone. Sport is simply the vehicle by which you can learn life lessons in teamwork, leadership, communication and accountability and use them to overcome the challenges of life in a way that you can be truly of. After some of the coaches and I shared with the girl some of the challenges we had been through to learn those lessons, I felt that we could help her that she was not alone, but really a part of the bigger 'team' of athletes, all over the world, who have all experience and overcome moments like this during their careers. In knowing this, she was able to rejoin the court with more confidence and skill than we had ever seen before.
This year, Pandoo Foundation came into the lives of 45 girls for a very important reason – to show them that sport is not just about winning or losing, it’s about acquiring skills that will lead you to continuously better yourself as a person. This tournament may have marked the end of a season, but the skills I saw on the court show me that the lessons delivered will likely be carried with each player for a long time afterwards, perhaps for the rest of their lives.
For a reason, a season or a lifetime; spike for a better world.