WCSH girls soccer team embraces broader approach for their program: commitment, culture, community

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Westerville Central High School’s girls soccer team wanted to support more than their own program with their annual raffle tickets sale this summer.

They decided to give 30% of the money they raised to support soccer programs at the Columbus School for the Deaf and the Columbus International School. Through their efforts, they collected $2,600 to purchase balls for training, soccer socks for the team, practice goals, cones, ball pumps and other much needed supplies and equipment for both schools. They donated another $2,500 to the Westerville Area Resource Ministry (WARM). 

Players also donated gently-used bags and gently-used cleats to the soccer programs as well as volunteered at both Columbus schools over the summer.

“Being a part of this experience was truly like no other,” said senior Rylee Mensel, one of the team’s captains. “Being able to go with (Coach Danny Hunt) to give the school the items was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Seeing how grateful they were for the equipment was a feeling I never want to forget.”

“The fact that we were able to help others — and seeing how much it affected them — was truly a feeling I’ve held onto since,” she said. “After doing this service project, I have been more inspired than ever to go out and help those less fortunate.”

The project is part of a larger approach the team discussed last spring to take their program moving forward. As a group, they decided to focus their efforts on three tenets: establishing commitment, building a culture and creating a community. 

Among the cultural changes they wanted to make: thinking of those beyond their school community. 

“I have really impressed upon my players that I want them to take ownership of this team and make it what they want,” Hunt said. “Being able to tell these girls that every ounce of effort they put towards fundraising this summer meant that we could give more money as a program to these organizations really seemed to give them the extra push they needed to get out there and ask the community to be a part of what our program is trying to do.”

Senior Elena Summanen, who is also a team captain, said the project set an amazing example for the team, especially the younger players, about service and helping those in need. 

“Not only are we giving monetary support but are also very excited to get to attend some games to cheer the teams on,” she said. “Hopefully, each of us is able to take this further than just our soccer program and learn to integrate acts of service into the rest of our lives. I have definitely been inspired to do so.”

Senior and team captain Natalee Koenig said this year’s raffle fundraiser felt more personal compared to previous ones. She accompanied Hunt in delivering the equipment to a school — an experience that left an indelible mark. 

“I know if I didn't have the opportunity to play soccer I would feel really upset since it is one of my passions like other kids as well,” she said. “Knowing that we could help students play for a soccer team meant a lot to us because we know that these students would feel exhilarated. We felt glad that we could make other people's dreams come true.” 

Hunt said players are already talking about how they can improve next year’s fundraising and how they can get more of the school’s community and local businesses involved. 

“Hopefully our girls will be able to look back at this tradition 20 years from now and just see paint splatter all over the globe of areas where their efforts have had a meaningful and lasting impact,” he said. “Five years from now we won't remember our record or how far we went in the state tournament but I think we will remember some of these other things. I know the people that we help along the way will remember.”