The men’s basketball team spent the second week in August a long way from home. The Wildcats made the 2,614-mile trip from Abilene to the DFW International Airport to Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The team woke up the first morning to conditions far different than those of Abilene. Temperatures in the 60’s in August proved to be a positive start for the Wildcats.
The players competed in two exhibition games during their time out of the country. The first game was against a semi-pro team, which ACU defeated 70-32. The second came against the Costa Rican national team, and the Wildcats came out on top, 60-37.
The special moments for the Wildcats during this trip didn’t come from on the court, however, said coaches and players. While in Costa Rica, head coach Joe Golding, along with his assistant coaches and players, helped lead a basketball camp for the children of San Jose. The whole team bought into the mindset of serving and for a moment, basketball faded away.
“These kids out here come first,” Golding said. “A lot of times we forget just how important it is to take care of kids. This has been a great opportunity for the guys and it’s something that we’re all about at ACU.”
Twelve hours after stepping off the plane and just moments after the team’s first practice, the Wildcats led the school kids through drills and scrimmages on the court. With the help of ACU graduates Jason and Lindsey Boone, who are serving as missionaries in Costa Rica, the Wildcats were able to touch the lives of the kids and in a way, receive more than they expected.
“To me, this is more than basketball,” Golding said. “To see these guys hold babies and play with little kids is something special, and you can see how each one is effected. That’s what ACU has been all about. Ever since I was a student, to being an assistant to now a head coach, the mission has stayed the same: Go out, serve others and see what happens.”
The Wildcats also visited an orphanage at a Catholic parish, located in one of the most poverty stricken parts of San Jose. One player described the experience in a single word.
“This is very humbling,” sophomore forward Drake Green said. “To see how these people live is eye-opening. But it’s crazy to see these kids’ faces just light up when they saw us.”
Thousands of children are cared for by the workers at the orphanage. The Wildcats spent the afternoon interacting and loving on the children before having to leave, something none of the players wanted to do.
“You get invested in these kids and you get to talking to them and learn their stories and your heart just breaks,” Golding said. “These kids have been through so much and they’re still grateful for so much. It really makes you readjust your thinking about your own life and perceived problems.”
After the five day trip, the Wildcats came home. The practice and the games helped sharpen the team and gel new players into the system. But the biggest impact of all is what was seen through those kids eyes.
“I was adamant from the start that I wanted this trip,” Golding said. “I wanted them to experience the true meaning of selflessness. We preach all the time that for a team to win, you have to be selfless and put the team first. But this is what it’s all about. We want to take advantage of any opportunity we have, whether it’s in Abilene or Costa Rica, to serve and do some good.”