Being offered the opportunity to play and teach a favorite sport in another country is not something that happens everyday. Kate Smith has been offered just that chance.
Smith, a second-year PLEA legal major, has been invited by Beyond Sports to their 3rd Annual Invitational Costa Rica Volleyball Tour from May 22 to 30, to coach and play volleyball. According to Beyond Sports’s website, during the nine-day tour, Smith will participate in volleyball clinics for the youth, play games against Costa Rica’s top teams, and go on
excursions to the beach and rain forest.
Grant Leslie and Josh Erickson founded Beyond Sports in 2010 when they were in graduate school after being student-athletes themselves. Leslie was able to study abroad in Europe, and Erickson volunteered in Costa Rica.
Mills Alum and cross-country athlete Angie Sandoval ’11 played a role in building the program when it first began, according to Leslie.
“These experiences helped us understand the importance of study abroad as a component of a liberal arts education, while also alerting us to the fact that very few of our student-athlete peers took advantage of similar opportunities,” Leslie, who is now the director of program development of Beyond Sports, said.
Leslie reached out to Head Volleyball Coach Loke Davis through email to invite Smith to the summer tour.
Smith, 19, has been playing volleyball for nine years, including two at Mills. Starting in the sixth grade, she chose to play volleyball competitively year round. Smith continues to play for the Mills Volleyball team, playing setter and libero.
“I always like it, and it’s always felt like an escape from everything else that’s going on,” Smith said. “On the court you’re in control, and it’s you and your team. You can just play and do your thing.”
Formerly the tennis coach, Davis remembered hearing about Smith as a promising volleyball player. Davis said that Smith has high expectations for herself and others on the team in terms of how much they can be pushed. Davis regards Smith as the most outward and vocal about her competitive self. Smith was awarded Cyclone of the Week last November.
“She’ll be the one at practice who will be constantly checking in about what the score is,” Davis said. “’What’s the score now? Or it’s 5-7 now it’s not 4-7, we just got a point.’”
Smith is also an RA for first-year Cyclone living learning community (LLC), the Mills Visit Program coordinator at the Office of Admissions and helps run her family’s carnival when she is home in Vancouver, Washington.
Emma Baumeister is a former teammate as well as a current friend of Smith. After rooming together in a hotel during their first trip of the volleyball season, the two clicked; they have been friends since then.
“She always has something funny to say when you’re having a hard day or something isn’t going right,” Baumeister said. “She always knows how to cheer me up, whether it takes a good laugh, an ice cream run or just a supportive presence.”
Smith has already begun to leave her mark in volleyball. Her high school, Fort Vancouver High School, created The Community Leadership Award, on behalf of Smith’s leadership and excellent skill. Smith’s sister Sarah J. Smith, a senior at Fort Vancouver High School, received the award earlier this year.
Now Smith has the opportunity to leave a mark in another country for a new group of people and return with some new memories and experiences.
“To even have this opportunity of doing something like this abroad you can grow so much, on so many levels,” Davis said. “I’m really happy for her that she’s taking advantage of this opportunity.”
With only a few months before going to Costa Rica, Smith is excited to coach for a diverse program that inspires youth to play sports.
“I’m really excited for the coaching experience because when I’m done playing volleyball, I have every intention of coaching,” Smith said.