Talk about a travel soccer team. You would need an atlas, a passport and a Google map to keep up with members of the Barnstable girls soccer team this off season.
During the third week of April, several team members vacationed in the Caribbean, but the trek did not consist solely of trips to the beach to lie out in the sun.
The players took part in their annual pilgrimage there to run soccer clinics, drop off school supplies and soccer equipment and work in the schools with various underprivileged children there.
“It’s all about the kids,” said Barnstable girls soccer coach Lee “Doc” Docherty. “They’re the ones who make it happen.”
Seven Barnstable students, Abby Al-Asousi, Maddie Brennan, Isabelle Bresett, Olivia Lucashensky, Brendan Murphy, Grace Walsh and Izzy Woods took part in the trip.
“We’re trying to get the kids involved and we want them to realize that in other countries there are kids just like them,” said Docherty. “We’re trying to break boundaries down. This has been six years in the making and I’d never have dreamed that it would get to this point.”
Docherty noted that a lot of team and teen bonding take place during the trip, and the same group of students want to return for the excursion next year.
In addition, Docherty will be taking other groups to needy areas in the United Kingdom, Kenya and Jordan.
While not every student is able to trek off to foreign countries, each can make a contribution with activities and events that happen locally.
Each Tuesday evening, street soccer is held at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center at the outdoor basketball courts.
“We have anywhere from 50 to 80 kids from Hyannis and each time we have a lesson of the day,” he said, noting such themes as equality and leadership, led by the Barnstable High players.
On June 9, the same group will be running their annual Food Donation Soccer Tournament at HYCC to benefit local food pantries. Since 2011, they have raised over $30,000 in food and monetary donations.
Another charity the event will benefit helps the family of Compass Athletics director Mike Pimental of Sandwich, who is battling cancer. The tournament will allow students as young as grade 3 through grade 12 to play.
“People bring food donations and each team has an entry fee to help to raise the money,” Docherty said. Donations can be made to the UKSD.org website (United Kingdom Soccer Development).
Since beginning UKSD, Docherty has used the game of soccer to educate youth about social issues such as homelessness, hunger and substance abuse, while also supplying high quality soccer training, coaching, equipment and educational items, at little or no cost to kids and teens in the Barnstable area and throughout the world.
That is what the group’s mission statement is.
“I’d much rather walk into a combat zone like the Middle East with a ball instead of a rifle,” he said. “That’s how you break down barriers and build bridges.”
Docherty continues to work to get the message out there.
Over the past eight weeks, he has been on the road. Recently he took a group to West Virginia Appalachian country, where two of the older girls got a tryout with the team from Davis and Elkins College there.
“It’s all logging and mining country there, and they have nothing,” Docherty said. “We brought equipment to them as well, and ran some clinics.”
In addition, another group went to the United Kingdom where they are sponsored by Millwall Football Club, a team in London with one of the owners originally from the Cape.
“They have a massive community with substance abuse problems and are located in an area heavily populated with gang activity,” he said of the town of Lewisham in southeast London. “We’re planning some stuff for next year to take some of our kids, and then take some of their kids back here.”
In addition, he flew to Florida to join up with soccer alumna and D-Y grad Vanessa Begley, who now goes to the University of Southern Florida.
“She set up UKSD Tampa for their inner city kids,” he said. “We went down and trained her club team and sorority girls, and they are doing down there what we’re doing up here.”
He is also planning to take his local group there in the fall to run a food donation soccer tournament there, noting the homelessness problem is very big there.
Soccer gear, school supplies and other items will soon be distributed to kids in Kenya, Jordan and Iraq.
Should Donald Trump be needing foreign policy expertise, Docherty and his players just may be the best ambassadors he could find.
“The idea is that we want kids helping kids. We’re trying to take all of the politics and the religion and other stuff out of it,” said Docherty. “At the end of the day, you’re all the same. We’re just trying to give them a global perspective and then they can make up their own minds.”