Quote Sheet: Jay Miller and Lorrie Fair Talk About their Time in Morocco
Apr 7, 2008
On how he got involved with the Sports Envoy program:
In traveling with National Teams on occasion, we’ve been in come countries where it’s pretty tough for some of the kids to play soccer because of poverty. My very close friend Glenn Myernick told me about his experience with the program in 2006 and when he came back, he said he really enjoyed it. I knew I would enjoy it, and I also wanted to keep his spirit alive as well.
On going to Morocco:
I had never been to Morocco before, so it was my first choice in going on a trip. The people there were great. The kids were a little unsure at first, they wanted to see how it was because it was an experience that they’d never had before. They had come from six different cities, five boys and five girls from each. Some were from the edge of the Sahara desert and some of the boys had never played on grass. In the southern part of the country they don’t water the grass because they need it to drink.
On the children’s reaction to meeting them:
Near the end, the last two days, we had made a complete connection with the kids. They were an absolute delight.
On what they taught the kids:
There were two local coaches assigned to help me, and we only had one field. I had 30 boys on my half and then Lorrie had the 30 girls on her half. We had eight sessions over four days and we had a basic curriculum for the soccer, a skills portion and then some basic tactics and formations and so forth. It was very intriguing that they were very good with the ball, but they had no team concept because in street soccer when you get the ball you don’t pass it! It’s usually 14 kids and one ball! We had to teach them to spread out and get them to understand that you can spread joy around by spreading the ball around. Near the end, it was great that they got it. It was like the light came on. It was really, really fun to see.
On whether he thinks the kids enjoyed their time:
The kids were beside themselves. Lorrie and I set up a beach soccer day because we were so close to the beach. We took them over and played 4 v. 4, set up fields with cones on the beach. We mixed the boys and girls together and just let them play. We just gave them the chance to act like kids, not worried about their next meal or about doing anything wrong, but to just enjoy soccer. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them. Every kid had a personality that just opened up throughout the week.
On the kids’ reaction to the program:
Some of the kids were saying that what stood out for them was that we treated everyone exactly the same. We were all equals. Boys, girls, tall, small, it didn’t matter. He said we were funny, open and we cared. It was really mission accomplished. In my opinion, this program works. We didn’t talk about politics, we didn’t talk about the United States. We just jumped in and enjoyed each other.
On his personal reflection on the Sports Envoy program:
I tried to reflect on the experience during the flight home and I felt like an astronaut. When an astronaut is walking outside the space station and looking at the Earth, he thinks ‘wow I’m a member of that’. To me the experience just reinforced the fact that we’re so similar. Rather than dwelling on the differences in other countries and religions, for four days we dwelled on the things we had in common. After a while the differences become miniscule.
Former U.S. Women's National Team player LORRIE FAIR:
On how she became involved with the Sports Envoy program:
I heard about the program through Tiffany Roberts. She had gone to Uganda on a trip and thought it was great. So, I talked to her about it and she recommended talking to Lauren Gregg about the program, so I did that and Lauren said they were definitely looking for people. I put my name out there and next thing I knew I was heading to Morocco. I think the turnaround time was only about three weeks.
On the welcome they received in Morocco:
The first people we met there were ambassadors and people from the State Department, and the Moroccan people we met were wonderful. They were so welcoming. Sometimes when you go places there are hesitations about being female, and I’d had that in the back of my mind heading into the trip, but that didn’t matter to them at all. I speak a little bit of French so that seemed to help. They seemed to appreciate that even though I still needed an interpreter.
On what they taught the kids about soccer:
Jay took the 30 boys and I took the 30 girls. He had one half of a pitch and I had the other. Sometimes we couldn’t get through everything we wanted because the technical stuff was a little difficult. With the boys, Jay got through some of the tactical stuff and I didn’t get to any of that. Most of my stuff was technical, from passing to dribbling to shooting, that kind of stuff.
On the kids’ experience:
A lot of the girls had never played 11 v. 11 before. Some had never seen the beach, and some had never played on grass. In the south of Morocco water is very precious, so grass doesn’t really grow. They’d seen grass but they’d never played on a grass pitch before.
On what the children learned:
The funny thing is that when Jay and I were talking afterwards, we had talked to some of the kids to see what they’d learned and for us, we didn’t care if they took all that much from us soccer-wise. For me as a coach I always want whoever I’m coaching to take how I am as a person. You can use sports that way. It is a microcosm of life. You’re faced with certain situations, like losing or when you’re frustrated with a teammate, when you have to lead a group. All of these things are applicable to life and so for me a lot of it was how we treat one another and how you are as a person. Through football you can kind of see your character shine through. For me, I didn’t really care if they took anything about soccer from it. I cared that they took integrity and character from it.
On talking to the participants after the program:
It was really neat to hear that when some of the people talked to the kids, some of them had said that they were amazed at how they were treated. They were treated as equals by both Jay and me. As Jay said, this should really hit home for the U.S. Embassy because right now we’re not exactly the most loved country on the planet. In fact, it’s probably quite the contrary. I think they had some preconceptions about how Americans are. And for us to come in and treat everybody the same, treat everyone as equals and not be afraid to hug the girls. I got kisses from them afterwards and a teddy bear and an “I love you” bracelet. There were a few girls there who were playing in full coverage – a veil and everything, and one of them was crying when it was time for us to go. Most importantly, they saw us as representatives of America, which was good because like I said, we treated them as equals and they definitely felt like it.
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