Global sport: KHPR student aligns learning with passion for soccer in international internship

When personal passions align with learning opportunities, life-changing experiences are often the result. Just ask Quinny Truong, a graduate student in UNT’s sports management program, part of the Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation.

Truong spent this summer interning with FundLife International, a nonprofit organization that brings soccer to impoverished children in Tacloban, The Philippines. The city was largely destroyed in November 2014 by Typhoon Haiyan, and many residents are still working to rebuild. FundLife creates after-school opportunities for Tacloban children to develop their confidence and leadership skills, give them a safe place to play and learn, and keep them engaged in their community.

For Truong, a lifelong athlete who played soccer for Rice University as an undergraduate, the experience meant an opportunity to put the sports management lessons she’d learned at UNT into practice.

“Sports management is like a business degree for the sport world. In my classes, I’m learning how to evaluate processes and management for sports organizations, and that’s what I got to do for FundLife,” she said. “The goal was to get feedback from the kids and find ways we could make the program even better.”

The organization hires college students to work as coaches for the children, who range in age from around 5 to 17, and in order to participate in soccer practices and tournaments, the kids must be enrolled in school and keep up with their schoolwork. At the end of her six-week internship, Truong presented FundLife leadership with her ideas for improvement, which she hopes will help make the already positive FundLife experience even more rewarding for Tacloban kids.

“I could see immediately that the kids loved the experience. This was what they looked forward to most in their lives, the biggest, brightest part of their days,” she said. “They were just so eager to learn, not only about soccer, but about America. They asked me so many questions, always wanting to know more.”

The children were also eager to play. Residents of The Philippines are known for their passion for soccer, and the kids in Tacloban were no exception, even though they lacked many of the basic resources they needed to play, Truong said.

“It was truly an experience to see how these kids in The Philippines played with such passion for the game,” she said. “Most of the kids didn't have the proper equipment and often played barefoot. Not to mention the conditions in which they had to play. Some played on uncut grass with rocks and used sticks for goals; some played on concrete with no lights so they often played in the dark.

“It was just an amazing experience to see how they played soccer in these types of conditions.”  

FundLife currently only operates in the Tacloban region, but the organization brings in soccer coaches, partners and advisors from around the world, including Arsenal in the Community, FIFA Football for Hope and UNT’s KHPR department chair, John Nauright, who helped Truong secure her internship.

“As part of my work supporting FundLife International, one of the two NGO Sport for Development partners of KHPR along with Sacred Sports in St. Lucia, we wanted to provide students opportunities to gain field experience in this important and growing field,” Nauright said. “Quinny was the ideal student to pioneer our engagement due to her sporting experience, her outstanding classroom performance and her infectious personality. We hope to send other students to The Philippines and to St. Lucia in the near future as KHPR promotes sport all around the world.”

Learn more about FundLife here and about UNT’s KHPR department here.

 

Top photo, Quinny Truong, front row left, with some of the kids she coached in Tacloban, The Philippines, and Zimbabwean soccer player Esther Mano, back rown third from right.