Long Beach State athletes build a court and relationships in San Carlos, Belize

June 2019

Even though we shared a campus for years, it took a trip to San Carlos, Belize for a group of ten student-athletes and three advisors to create an everlasting friendship. On this journey we encountered many different lifestyles and met amazing people, that in the end changed us.

Some of our main objectives of the trip were to build a multi-purpose court for the people of San Carlos, immerse ourselves in the culture and to get know our fellow student athletes and advisors. We started off each day with a word, something for us to ponder and figure out how it applies to our lives and the trip in general. Our first word was “Legacy”.

Our first adventure in Belize began not far from the village in an old Mayan ruin called Lamani.

Here we climbed old temples, overcame fears, and grew closer as group. That experience was one of the best examples of legacy that we could ask for. The Mayans were here years before us and they were remembered long after they were gone. They created a long-lasting impression that we hoped we could replicate in San Carlos by the time our trip came to an end. In addition to having a word of the day, everyone was given a challenge that they had to complete by dinnertime. The challenges were designed for us to interact with the community, learn more about them, push ourselves to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations and practice another language. Once the day was complete would share what our challenges were and what we learned from them.

Every morning, afternoon and night we gathered in a restaurant near the Lagoon for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This was also a place we could go to relax and just be with each other. In the beginning we would have our meals, play games and talk amongst ourselves. But by the end of the trip we were so immersed in their culture the community would meet us for dinner, and we would all share laughs and play games all together.

When we finally began building the court on the second day of our adventure, figuring out our work rhythm was little rocky at first, but as we continued to work in the hot Belize sun we quickly found our groove. As we tackled the court, section by section, there was an amazing chemistry between one local father and his son. The father would throw buckets of sand and rocks to his son, and the son would fire the materials into the mixer. As time went by and we became closer with the community, the men showed us how to execute their maneuvers. Soon afterwards we were chucking the rocks and sand into the air just like them, snatching them from the sky and dumping them into the mixer until the very last bucket poured.

Building the court is where we really began to form ties with the community. At every station we were laughing and having good time which made the workday fly by. Once the last bucket of cement was tossed into the mixer and the last wheelbarrow delivery laid and leveled it was great to see the proud expressions on the faces of the community.

As we waited for the cement to dry everyone reconvened to the restaurant. We played games and told riddles late into the night. The next day was the opening ceremony for the court and it was the most amazing that I have ever experienced. Seeing all of the kids playing on the court was everything we had hoped for. The joy that was on their faces was amazing and getting to teach and play with them on their brand new court was very rewarding. They were just so happy to learn something new, and taking moment to step back a watch them was so fulfilling.

I got so much more out of this trip than I could have ever expected.  

Traveling to Belize will forever be one of the greatest memories of my life.- Louis, student athlete

“It was a great experience getting to know the people that I left with, but I found that hanging out with my host family gave me a chance to gain more perspective and a better way to fully immerse myself in their culture. I also found out that the community members are not that different than we are. I gained a lot of respect for my host family because they get up at the crack of dawn to go and farm, they would spend time as a family in the nights, and they stayed up late to hang out with me. One quality that I can learn from them is definitely their work ethic, and how they do not complain ever.” -Jack

“My favorite memory of the trip was being able to play cards with the community children every night after dinner before going to bed. Walking into San Carlos the first day, none of the kids had seen a deck of cards before, nor knew of any common card games that we play here in the States. It made me so happy to see their looks of pure curiosity, and having the nightly occurrence become a consistent community-wide event. You would hear motorcycles and bikes riding down the road every night to the restaurant because the kids all wanted to spend time with us and learn just as much about our culture as we wanted to learn about theirs.” -Jillian

“Traveling to San Carlos Belize with Courts for Kids was both a challenging and exhilarating experience. For me, the community we stayed in was a drastic difference from my daily life. It was such a blessing to be able to observe, live in and embrace a new culture. While we accomplished the task of building the court, that was secondary to the relationships we built with each other and with the community. My high point of the trip and favorite memories came from the interactions I had with the people who are native to San Carlos. In spite of major language barriers we were able to converse, accomplish much and build a lasting friendships. Coming back from this trip I have learned that the limited place on myself I simply that and I can be so much bigger than the box I put myself into. I also learned that perceptions are not always reality and everyone has a unique point of view. These various views point are an assets for the community.” -Kent

“What I learned about myself is that I can rely on others.  I always tend to assume that everyone is out to get me, or if a chance presented itself, they would eagerly choose themselves over me.  However, my group and the people in the village never once did that.  I always felt as though I could depend on them, and it was a great thing to finally understand dependability.  Especially because we all were in a new place and felt vulnerable.” – Sydney

What I understand more clearly now is that you don’t need to be in a comfortable setting or have a lot to have fun.  This trip has shown me that the most simple things can provide even greater joy.  Seeing the kids in the community laughing and playing was a true joy.”  -Louis