CHICAGO (Oct. 9, 2011) — Former U.S. Women’s National Team players Shannon MacMillan and Tracy Noonan will head to Guatemala on Monday, Oct. 10, to hold clinics across the country for schoolchildren, internationals and coaches. U.S. Soccer, in partnership with U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, will reach as many as 1,195 children in three cities during the five-day trip.
The Sports Envoy program is part of SportsUnited’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative. Research shows that there is a strong connection between girls’ participation in sports and pursuing a higher level of education, which then leads to more women in leadership roles. Through the international program, U.S. Soccer seeks to promote sports and spark dialogue with children from around the world.
MacMillan and Noonan will conduct several soccer clinics with secondary and high school students, underprivileged youth and coaches, in addition to hosting talks about women in sports and reaching goals. Sports Envoys teach the participants how playing sports can help them stay active and healthy throughout their life. The program also stresses the importance of hard work as it relates to soccer, as well as success and achievement in the classroom and other areas of life.
“I just really enjoy being able to help in some small way, to help get some kids opportunities that they didn’t have,” said Noonan. “Especially to help inspire girls that they can be strong, they can be athletic. That will help them lead to hopefully a better lifestyle and to empower them.”
The Guatemala trip will kick off in the Sololá Department on Oct. 11 with two hour-long clinics with secondary school students, both in groups of 100. Later that afternoon, MacMillan and Noonan will host a clinic with adult trainers, followed by a session with junior and high school students.
The next day, the Envoys will head to Quetzaltenango where the group will spend a day and a half holding talks and clinics before arriving in the capital, Guatemala City. During the next two days, the former U.S. internationals will meet with members of the Guatemala Men’s and Women’s National Teams and conduct clinics for underprivileged children from dangerous neighborhoods.
“We’re working with some coaches and some teachers as well, which I think is really important so that we can help make some of the efforts and activities we’re showing them more sustainable,” said Noonan. “It would be great to help inspire these coaches so that they can help continue these projects with their students once we’ve left.”
MacMillan was one of the leading women’s goal scorers when she retired with 176 caps in 2006. The forward scored 60 goals and notched 53 assists during her 12-year career that spanned from 1993 to 2005. MacMillan was with the WNT during two World Cups and two Olympics, including the 1996 games when the U.S. took home the historic gold medal. During the 1995 World Cup, MacMillan became the first woman in U.S. Soccer history to score in the semifinal and final of a FIFA world championship.
Noonan earned 24 caps during her four years between the posts with the National Team. Between 1996 and 1999, Noonan had seven shutouts and allowed only nine goals. She was a member of the winning U.S. World Cup team in 1999 but did not see playing time.
SportsUnited is the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ premier sports exchange program at the U.S. Department of State. Athletes and coaches from a range of sports are chosen to conduct clinics, visit schools and engage youth overseas in a dialogue on the importance of an education, positive health practices, and respect for diversity. Since 2003, SportsUnited has brought more than 600 athletes from 44 countries to the U.S. to participate in Sport Visitor programs. Since 2005, SportsUnited has sent more than 100 U.S. athletes to 40 countries to participate in Sport Envoy programs.
U.S. Soccer has been involved with Sports Envoy since 2006. Former players and coaches have traveled to South Africa, Bahrain, Uganda, Nigeria and Morocco, to name a few. Just this year, Linda Hamilton, Tiffany Roberts, Amanda Cromwell and Briana Scurry held clinics in Brazil and Germany. More past participants include Juergen Sumner, Cindy Parlow, Jeff Pill, Marcelo Balboa and Jay Miller.