April 20, 2011
RUSTON - Fearless, family, respect and passion has been a the motto of the Louisiana Tech soccer program since head coach Kevin Sherry arrived in Ruston in 2007. By competing in the Panda Cup on April 16-17, the Lady Techsters got to interact with individuals that share the same values.
The Panda Cup is more than just a spring exhibition soccer tournament. It is actually put on by the Panda Cup foundation, a non-profit organization with the purpose of building friendship and bridging cultures through soccer. It is one of the most unique soccer events in the world as it brings together athletes of all ages, elite teams and special needs athletes along with community outreach programs all with the common love of soccer.
The Tech soccer program, which has a strong history of community service, joined up with Scottish Rite Hospital, the Special Olympics, the Homeless Soccer Celebration Legacy Program and the International Amputee Outreach program to share a common love for the sport in an atmosphere of friendship.
"Last weekend was very special to the team and myself," said junior Scotti Culton. "We were so excited to help out with this showcase and be a part of something so great."
When Tech arrived in Lewisville, Texas Friday night, they got to meet various representatives of the tournament and outreach programs. During the get-together, the squad donated soccer equipment they had gathered together from the soccer community in Ruston to help those less fortunate.
On Saturday, they drove to Lewisville High School to volunteer with the Special Olympics. The Lady Techsters put the Olympians through soccer drills and then took part in an exhibition scrimmage with them.
Following that event, the players acted as "ball girls" for the homeless soccer exhibition game. It gave the Lady Techsters a chance to interact with the homeless soccer players and learn about their stories.
"I felt it important for our players to learn about their situation and hear the goals of the outreach program so as to be more aware of how fortunate their own situation is and to never take it for granted," said head coach Kevin Sherry.
The homeless soccer outreach program is designed to encourage and assist those living on the streets to improve their lives with the goal of helping the players escape homelessness for good.
"The people we were fortunate enough to meet over the weekend were playing purely for the love of the game and it was a sweet reminder of why we do what we do," said freshman Emily Brennan. "Helping in the Panda Cup really taught the team not to take the opportunities we have for granted and to live life to the fullest."
Later on Saturday, after Tech played Tulsa, the Lady Techsters watched an exhibition of amputee soccer players and later got to interact and take pictures with them.
"The people from the Special Olympics, the amputee game, and the homeless game are an inspiration," said freshman Mia Schorpp. "Watching them face adversity and overcome their obstacles with a smile on is truly a heartwarming experience. They had so much love not only for each other but for the game of soccer. As a Lady Techster, I felt very proud to be a part of this experience. I hope that we can participate and contribute to this program every year."
Louisiana Tech played Tulsa to a 0-0 tie and defeated West Texas A&M 1-0 on Sunday, but when not competing, the Lady Techsters were doing their part to serve others.
"Our goal for the tournament was to win a trophy," Sherry said, "a trophy in our hearts which will be there for a lifetime."