Rising senior outside hitter Kristin Lee participated in Beyond Sports' Third Annual Costa Rica Volleyball Tour from May 22-30 in the Central American country of Costa Rica. She was part of a team of all-conference selections and statistical leaders from across the United States to play against the Cotsa Rica National Volleyball Team and other top club teams. In addition to playing volleyball, they conducted clinics for the Costa Rican youth and also got to explore Costa Rica during the nine-day stay. Here is her experience…
I got the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for a week with the Beyond Sports program. I was a part of a group of four volleyball teams and a couple of soccer teams; my team, the Tortugas, was comprised of other Division III volleyball players from all over the country. I was hesitant about the decision to travel alone to a foreign country, but I knew I would be missing out if I didn't go. And I was right! The country was beautiful. My teammates, coach, and guides were a fun group of people. I had a blast getting to play with and help coach the local kids. And the sightseeing trips and events that the program planned for us were fantastic! Overall it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I'm glad I took the chance!
I kept a blog detailing the busy week's events:
I started my trip off by just barely missing my flight. (Who knew the line to get through security at BWI would be so crowded before a 6:20am flight?) My suitcase had more luck than me and got to arrive in Costa Rica a good 9-10 hours ahead of me, but I caught another flight and finally made it to San José. I got there late at night, took a van with some other people with the Beyond Sports program, and moved into a room with three of my new teammates.
We went to the Lincoln School where we had group orientation with all of the volleyball and soccer teams there with the program. Each team got a chance to practice for about an hour and eat lunch in the school's cafeteria. Then we had our first clinic which we helped the Special Olympics organization run for some of the local children with disabilities. We split into groups and sang songs with them that the man running the event had tried to teach us earlier. Then our teams split up, and some of the kids came and played with us in the gym. Then the groups switched, and the kids playing with us went outside and the kids out on the field with the soccer team came in to join us. After the clinic we hopped on the bus to drive to La Fortuna (with a quick stop at a Walmart for snacks) and checked into our hotel. We went to the Baldi Hot Springs Hotel for a buffet dinner and a couple hours in the hot springs and on the water slides before going back to get some sleep.
In the morning, we went on a zip lining adventure through the rainforest. As someone with a fear of heights, I had some initial issues with this trip, to say the least, when we climbed up all the stairs onto the first platform to see that the zip line we would first take disappeared into the clouds not 10 feet out. I went on seven different zip lines; the longest one was 980 meters long and had a view of a big waterfall. Unfortunately, we went on a very foggy and rainy day, so we didn't get to have a view of the Arenal volcano. In the afternoon, we drove to a school for our second clinic where we helped a group of young volleyball players work on their skills. After working on individual skills, the younger girls sat out and we got to mix in and play queen of the court with the older players. We later drove back to San José and stayed at the same hotel we did the first night.
We held our third clinic at an elementary school. We split into groups and had the kids rotate around from station to station. I was in the group that worked on serving over the net from 10 foot line to 10 foot line. (We had some laughs at my attempts to explain what we were going to do to the kids in Spanish). Then we briefly did hitting lines and scrimmaged our "sister team" that travels with us for the kids to watch. In the evening we played our first game against a San José club team in the national team's gym. We lost 3-1, but the games were all close.
We took a tour of downtown San José and saw the national cathedral. We also walked through a couple markets and bought souvenirs. Our second game was at night against a young club team. We lost the first set but won the rest.
We left early to drive to Manuel Antonio beach, and stopped halfway there to see what's known as the Crocodile River. We checked into a hotel that was right on the beach and spent a few hours on the beach in the afternoon. The power was out when we got there for routine maintenance but luckily it was back on when we got back from dinner. We went to happy hour at a bar with a beautiful view and it started pouring rain. We went to dinner at a restaurant at a marina and ate pizza (they were giving us a break from rice and beans). We sat on the deck and watched the storm. The lightning was really close; I saw one bolt strike a metal bridge and send sparks off flying.
We ate breakfast early at the restaurant right outside our doors and went to Manuel Antonio National Park. We hiked a few trails through the forest and saw monkeys, colorful crabs, sloths, beautiful views of the ocean, and a waterfall. The hike was a workout with a ton of stairs to climb (I sweat more than I probably ever have in my life), so when we walked down to the beach the water was such a relief. The beach was beautiful, but there were pesky raccoons and monkeys that tried to open people's backpacks on the sand to steal food. My group walked back along the beach to the hotel for lunch at a restaurant on the beach by our hotel. For dinner we went to a restaurant called El Avión that was built around a C-123 plane that's a relic from the Cold War days. After dinner we went to a sports bar/billiards hall where our group played pool, giant Jenga, and got free dance lessons.
After spending the morning relaxing at the hotel and beach, we drove back to San José. We had our third and final match of the trip in the evening. To end our adventures in Costa Rica, there was a big banquet for dinner at the hotel with everybody in the program there to celebrate. I said my goodbyes to my teammates at the hotel bar at night.
Saturday morning I packed up my things, and headed to the first of three airports for a long trip home (San José to Charlotte to BWI)!