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Owls Use Costa Rican Trip as a Learning Experience

Coach Butcher with kids in Costa Rica
Coach Butcher with kids in Costa Rica

KEENE, N.H., 8/25/08 - Keene State men’s soccer coach Ron Butcher called his teams recently completed trip to Costa Rica a learning experience. Not only were the Owls schooled in the skills by several highly talented club teams, but they were also taught an even worldlier lesson after meeting some of the country’s children.

“When I first went down there, I thought it would be mostly about soccer,” said Shawn Booth, a senior back on the team. “But it ended up being the exact opposite.”

Keene State played four games during their nine-day junket to Costa Rica, a small Central American country located between Panama and Nicaragua. Although team bonding was high on the agenda, the Owls also used the trip to gauge their conditioning and focus as they prepare for their season opener. Managing just one tie, Butcher saw many deficiencies in his team’s play and came away impressed with the quickness and foot skills on their opponents.

“Everything they do in that country is repetition, repetition, repetition, while our guys need a new activity after five minutes,” said Butcher. “It showed in their quickness and foot work.”

“They play a lot less physical than we do,” said Booth. “We went in there hitting and banging. “Unfortunately, the referees called everything. It didn’t matter if we said anything. They didn’t speak a word of English.”

It wasn’t all work for the Owls, who attended a World Cup qualifying game between Costa Rica and El Salvador in San Jose. “It wasn’t like any game I’ve ever been too.” said Booth. “Everyone in the stands was going nuts. They would cheer for throw-ins like we’d cheer for goals.”

They also surfed at Flamingo Beach, propelled down the zip line in the rain forest, took a tour of the volcano-fed hot springs and went white-water rafting.

“The rafting was pretty intense and scary,” Booth said. “Coach was the first one to fall off. “We turned around and saw Butchy floating down the river.”

The Owls also performed some community service with their visit to a local center that housed 86 fatherless children who ranged in age from 10 months to 10 years old. Butcher said it was a real eye-opening experience for himself and his players.

“All these kids wanted was to be held, loved, and played with,” Butcher said. “My players were tremendous. For all we did, I will never forget those two hours.”

A steady diet of rice and beans had the players craving a burger by the time they returned to Miami. Many of the players came back from the trip with a list of things they had to work on to have a successful season. But they also returned with so much more.

“As much as it was a soccer trip, it was also about visiting another country and learning about their culture,” said Butcher. “It was a trip of a lifetime for many of these players who have never been anywhere.”

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