Sports Reporting Story 4: Local Soccer Club Helps with Program for Refugees in Greece

Catherine “Cat” Wallace looked down at the ground and thought for a second when asked what she took away most from her four months in Greece setting up a soccer program for Afghan and Pakistani refugees. It was the longest time she took to answer a question.

Her answer was understandably long as she recounted stories she heard from the refugees during her time with them. One story, she told of a child coming from Afghanistan where the Taliban is killing civilians for no reason forcing his family to flee to Greece and are now stuck there.

“Who am I to be afraid of this 14-year-old boy who has been through hell and back,” she said. She ended her answer saying the most impactful thing was “don’t let social media, don’t let the media in general, determine your beliefs, or your thoughts, on individuals who have parents, or had parents, who have families who want something better, but they haven’t been given the opportunities because they live in a country that has been war-torn their entire lives.”

Courtesy of Samaritan's Purse

It was a deep thought from someone who Samaritan’s Purse hired to help set up a soccer program for the refugee children. Cat, head women’s varsity soccer coach at Watauga High School now, was sent to Greece for four months to create the program and get it running. She said she used her experience coaching with High Country Soccer Association, the local youth soccer club in Boone, as well as help from her husband and Director of Coaching for HCSA, Christopher “Kiki” Wallace, to create the practice plans and train the coaches; many of whom had never played or coached soccer before.

Chase Perry dribbles past his opponent for the u12 Boys Navy team in their game on Saturday.

The International Headquarters of Samaritan’s Purse is located in Boone and Cat said they started sending dart teams early on in the refugee crisis in Greece. A little over a year after beginning to send dart teams, she said they created an official office there, Samaritan’s Purse Greece, which works with the government and provides full time aid.

Part of that aid, is working with major groups, Cat mentioned United Nations, to help fund and create programs in the area. One of the programs they decided on was a soccer program, and that, Cat said, is where she came in. She said it started with a four-month pilot program to see how it would work.

Catherine Wallace gives much of her coaching experience to HCSA, but said she did more of running the program herself than actual coaching in Greece. She says her husband Kiki Wallace joked with her that she was going to see some of the things that he deals with running HCSA. She quickly followed up saying it was also very different between the language barrier, new country and inexperienced coaches.

Ben White dribbles downfield for the u12 Boys Navy team in their game on Saturday.

When she knew she was going to be running the program, Catherine Wallace said she was doing a lot of the things internationally that her husband is doing in Boone. She said setting the curriculum and practice plans was where Kiki and HCSA really supported and helped her. “It was daily bouncing ideas off of each other, getting advice from him and figuring it out,” she said.

Courtesy of Samaritan's Purse

Cat said that Kiki really helped her make practice plans and things easy for coaches who didn’t really know soccer. She also said that she had to tailor the philosophy to emphasize effort, respect and work ethic over efficiency and effectiveness.

“We wanted to develop their skills but it was more an emphasis on developing them personally,” Cat said.

Kiki also went to Greece to coach in the program for a week. He recalled a practice in which some kids showed up wanting to play who did not have the proper clearance to do so. “Two in particular, decided to be as disruptive and annoying as possible to our training session,” he said in an email. He said it was far from what he was used to as he could not discipline the kids, had no authority over them and had no parents to ask to come control them.

Courtesy of Samaritan's Purse

Kiki said for the ones who were part of the program, “soccer brought them joy.” “They wanted to continue to play and so you knew it was having a positive impact in their daily life and brought them joy,” he said.

Chase Perry wins the ball in the air in the u12 Boys Navy team's game Saturday

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Specialized Reporting Story 2: Mt. Vernon Baptist Church Open Basketball Ministry

When asked to spot Tim Greene, players at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church open basketball ministry seemed to answer along the lines of, “it’s the old guy holding his own on the court.”

Greene, a ministry leader at Mt. Vernon, organizes the church’s open basketball ministry and has been a part of it for 30 years since members started coming together to play and share the word of the Lord.

While many participants joke about Greene’s age and ability, they also share similar answers when asked about what Greene means to them personally. Words like leader, mentor and teacher were brought up.

“He’s just a great mentor to me,” said James Privette, a Watauga High School freshman and Mt. Vernon member. “He’s personally very close to me, just because he took me in when I first moved here, and he’s really just a strong person.”

Greene says that open basketball night started as a way for members to get together and enjoy basketball, but as more young people started coming, it quickly turned into a ministry that expanded beyond Mt. Vernon.

“Other churches come too, so it’s a whole community thing and getting to share the gospel and build relationships with them,” Greene said.

He said a few young guys who would only come to basketball eventually started going to church at Mt. Vernon. Greene likes to see when young guys whose only affiliation with Mt. Vernon is basketball become more involved in other parts of the church. He mentioned young single and married guys who he has seen eventually begin attending services at Mt. Vernon and bringing their families.

Greene says his favorite part of the ministry is sharing that people can compete, have fun and do it for the Lord. He said he enjoys seeing guys grow spiritually and connect to the church in whatever way they can.

Cody Pace, a high school junior and very active member of Mt. Vernon, says he started coming on Tuesday nights because of how nice the people are, the devotions and talking and playing for God with a bunch of people.

Pace says he loves the idea of playing for the Lord, knowing that you’re playing for Him and that the Lord gives you strength, too.

Privette says his favorite part about open-court basketball is that he gets better at basketball, works out, sweats and has fun with friends. He also said that Greene’s influence has a large impact, as well.

“He’s a really strong leader,” Privette said. “He’s a strong prayer as well. He knows what to pray for, and he always gets to the bottom of things.”

Greene said that there are different speakers, anyone from players who have gone on elsewhere to former coaches, who come and speak to the crowds. And, as a rule, somewhere they must share the gospel.

“We try to share the gospel, and then have a point that we want to bring up,” Greene said.

Privette says he has grown stronger in his faith and become a better basketball player by coming to open basketball at Mt. Vernon.

With only one gym and numbers reaching about 35 people, keeping people playing becomes a point of emphasis.

“When we have that type of number, to make sure people keep coming back, because we want to share the gospel and build relationships with as many people as we can, we’ll go two new fives every game instead of the winning team staying up,” Greene said.

Greene said that in the short amount of time he has with the participants, he tries to direct them somewhere else in the church.

“They are coming here for a reason,” Greene said. “Some of these guys will come out and may not be great basketball players or want to sweat a lot, but they come just to hang out with the guys and participate in fellowship.”

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Sports Reporting Blog 4: NASCAR is Back. But do People Care?

Happy Daytona Day. Whether you care or not, NASCAR is back with its biggest race of the year, its so-called Super Bowl. However, while excitement fills the air for another NASCAR season, the sport is trying to curb the drastically falling ratings they have seen in the last decade. Part of doing this includes another new scoring system.

Already revamped once earlier this decade, NASCAR is trying to make the points system better. This comes with the new Chase format they instituted in which the Chase is staged in rounds with a number of drivers getting knocked out each round. All of this is in response to the decrease in ratings.

However, this new point’s system change may be what NASCAR has been looking for. In other sports, shots always count. A bucket is a bucket is a bucket. But if you watch enough NASCAR you will find a race where a guy who didn’t lead all race, or was even in the top 10, gets lucky after a big wreck, moves into eighth and makes a run to win the race. Did he deserve the glory that day? That’s what NASCAR is trying to tackle.

The new system splits all races into three segments; think of hockey and three periods. Each segment has point value with the last segment, or the end of the race, having the highest point value. So winning the race is still the most important, but if a driver is now leading for the majority of the race, chances are they will be rewarded by winning a segment. They can also earn points in duel races which happen throughout each race week.

All of this is trying to get people excited in the race. Far too often I have found myself excited for a driver who is doing well all race long only to see him crash and end up not finishing the race and be rewarded nothing for dominating the race while he was there. While I understand finishing the race is part of the race, I still think you should reward drivers for efforts throughout the race, not just where they are at the end.

Whether you are going to watch the Daytona 500 or not, I think everyone can agree that these new changes will make the first 450 miles much more exciting.

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