Youngsters line up for soccer drills during Coaches Across Continents’ trip to Kenya.
Think of the all-guts, no-glory positions in sports. Your mind might snap to a football lineman fighting for leverage in the trenches, or a hockey goalie blocking a barrage of shots.
A student-athlete who tries to give back to the world community might qualify as well.
Harvard University soccer player Tyler Evans is successful on the pitch, but his service outside the lines has gained attention, too. A U.S. Presidential Community Service Award winner while attending The Bishop’s School, Evans has volunteered for many organizations, including some in local and international soccer.
Evans spent 30 days in Kenya this summer, working with Kisumu Youth Soccer and the Society Empowerment Project through a program called Coaches Across Continents.
“We were considered goodwill ambassadors for the United States, the youth of America and soccer players around the world,” Evans said. “We lived in housing provided by hosts and spent days coaching and playing soccer. The purpose of the games and practices was aimed at different social issues in the region.”
Evans, a standout defender at Bishop’s, completed his freshman year at Harvard this past spring. A three-time captain for his Bishop’s and San Diego Surf club teams, Evans earned all-league honors four times for the Knights.
“He’s a very good player, and a fantastic athlete,” said Chris Gores, assistant coach at Harvard. “He’s very composed on the ball for a defender and has great vision as a passer.”
Nick Gates, former England Youth International player and Harvard graduate, founded Play Soccer in 1990. In 2008, the program transformed into Coaches Across Continents, with Gates still in charge as “founder and global strategist.” The organization’s mission is to educate poor and third-world communities in how to design and implement social development using soccer as a teaching tool.
“Our training before we left consisted of learning games with social development messages that we wanted to get across,” said Evans, who received a San Diego Section Sportsmanship Award and was named MVP of the Francis Parker Soccer Cup as a high school senior.
“Those messages included female empowerment, conflict resolution and HIV/AIDS awareness,” he said. “We learned different games with these messages embedded in them.”
Coaches Across Continents partners with host countries and over the course of a three-year program educates teachers, coaches and volunteers on working with children, using soccer to develop life skills.
“We don’t create football players,” Gates said. “What we create are initiatives in communities that use sport for social change.”
Many of the drills and games Coaches Across Continents teach represent real life situations. One game they play is called “Goalkeepers against HIV” in which the players learn that using a condom, represented by a goalkeeper, helps prevent HIV, the soccer ball, from infecting them.
When asked to describe Coaches Across Continents in one word, Gates said “Impactful.”
“It’s obvious that Coaches Across Continents makes an impact,” said former U.S. women’s national player Lorrie Fair, part of a Coaches Across Continents trip last summer. “All of the coaches are constantly engaging and encouraging the kids to think, be strong, and be safe.”
Not only does the program make strides to better communities all over the world, it also benefits the people who volunteer.
“It’s a great program and was an amazing trip,” Evans said. “It helped me grow as a player and as a person. Since I was the youngest person there, talking about HIV/AIDS and other problems helped my confidence, and the people living there could see that if a kid half their age can talk about it, then they can address the problems in their communities with confidence.”"