BY RODNEY MARGISON
With so much time devoted to training and playing their sport, student-athletes are seldom able to participate in typical college programs—things like service or the chance to study abroad. In an effort to change that, the national Coach for College program provides student-athletes the opportunity to visit underserved areas of rural Vietnam and give academic, athletic, and life-skills support to the region’s middle-school children.
Three Indiana University athletes took part in the program during the summer of 2016: Amanda Cahill (women’s basketball), Paul Galas (track and field), and Maddie Pierce (rowing). It was an experience that Cahill, an elementary education major, says will be useful later in her career.
“I learned a lot that will help me in my future classroom,” says the 21-year-old from Clyde, Ohio. “I’ve always wanted to travel, and obviously coaching and teaching are things I’m interested in, so it was the full package.”
Cahill and her colleagues traveled with the program for nearly a month after arriving in Ho Chi Minh City. From there, they dispersed to one of two locations in southern Vietnam.
A typical weekday began with a group workout session at around 5:30 a.m. “It was better to work out in the morning because it was a lot cooler,” Cahill says. After breakfast, the group left for school at about 7:15 a.m.
Cahill taught English, coached basketball, and led life-skills programs in which the Vietnamese students were taught teamwork, sportsmanship, and more. After lunch, the IU students repeated the morning regimen before returning to their host home, a bed-and-breakfast where they lived with other American students and their translators, Vietnamese college students.
“It was cool interacting and forming relationships with them,” Cahill says. On weekends, they took sightseeing excursions to places like Can Tho (famous for its floating market), Ho Chi Minh City, and a scenic waterway near the Cambodian border.
The best part for Cahill, however, was interacting with the kids. “They’re really into affection and having close relationships with adults,” she explains. “They just get so happy for little things. They don’t have a lot of material things. It was cool getting to experience that.”
For more information on the Coach for College program, visit coachforcollege.com.