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Before departing from the USA, as part of the preparation for travel and teaching, we coaches were asked what types of values we thought would be most important during our experience. Words such as ‘patience,’ ‘humility,’ and ‘open-mindedness’ were brought up and discussed, but until being a part of this team and working with the kids, I don’t think I understood what those values truly meant. Being in a new country and experiencing a new culture meant being patient not only with others, but especially with myself as I tried to learn a new language and practice new traditions and norms. It doesn’t always come naturally, and it’s hard to get things right on the first try, so being able to laugh at myself and listen to others was very humbling at times but also fun and refreshing.

When it came to the language barrier between the Americans and the Vietnamese, it was occasionally frustrating to be asking for help with translation when you just wanted to be able to connect with others on your own. However, I found that the greatest connections and the closest bonds were formed nonverbally through acts of kindness and laughter. Sometimes, giving a high-five or a hug was all that was needed to bring people together to create a trusting and friendly relationship. Positive body language accompanied words of encouragement to bring energy and excitement to any classroom. And the best part of it all… giving a smile always meant getting a smile.

As a student-athlete, it’s so easy to get caught up in everyday commitments and not feel the trust and love in connections like I did with my fellow coaches. I feel as though I’m always planning for the weeks ahead, meaning I’m forgetting to appreciate the ‘now.’ Due dates, deadlines, and before I know it, I’m forgetting to make time for my friends, or a phone call with my mom. I take it for granted that I feel solid and comfortable in these relationships, but something I learned from the incredible Vietnamese coaches and directors, and something I want to incorporate more into my life now, is how vocal they are about their love, support and appreciation for each other. It’s easy to assume that the people you love know that you love them, but what I value most about our fellow coaches is how natural it was for them to show their love and appreciation through words or acts of kindness.

My perspective on what it means to be present has changed, and they opened my eyes as to what it means to soak up a moment without thinking about what lies ahead. It’s always easy to reflect back and feel that love and appreciation for people and the time spent with them later in life, but now I can say that I was able to feel that while I was with them. I know it’s not going to be easy to consistently stay in the here and now, but my goal is to try and remind myself just how lucky I am to be surrounded by such amazing people who do incredible things and to remind my friends and family of my love and appreciation for them.

ACE has taught me what it means to be part of a community, and how a community is always there to support and uplift you. I have learned what it means to work as a team and to show love and appreciation for others along the way.

– Ava Sorrento, Stanford Women’s Gymnastics

My love and appreciation extends to the friends I shared the experience of a lifetime with across the world. My fellow ‘Green Team’ coaches are spread out among 3 continents, but we’ll never forget what we were able to share with each other. In a way, it’s hard to believe that none of us knew each other before our encounters within Coach for College and ACE, and it’s even harder to believe that our time together has come to an end. Our Green Team was able to bring energy and excitement to the classroom every day to not only motivate the kids but to motivate each other. I have never been more inspired by a group of people and how dedicated and passionate they were about each lesson, from the little details to the main idea. Everybody went the extra mile to get to know the kids and figure out what their likes and dislikes are to create a more meaningful and valuable experience for all. It’s amazing how quickly we became a cohesive unit, and how much we were able to open up to each other in just a short amount of time. I think this is part of the reason as to why we were able to excel as a team. Their passion, hard work and dedication is something so awe inspiring and beautiful. It is what I will miss most, but with their international support, I’ll be able to channel it all into my life back in the USA for years to come.

In 5 years from now I know that the stress of starting life after college and deciding what path I would like to take will be on the forefront of my mind, but during the busyness of it all I think it would be important to remember that I’ll never be doing anything alone. ACE has taught me what it means to be part of a community, and how a community is always there to support and uplift you. I have learned what it means to work as a team and to show love and appreciation for others along the way. So, to my fellow student-athletes and especially those just beginning their college careers, I encourage you to find those people and build the relationships and community that will be there to support you. Remember to be present despite the craziness of life and to show love and appreciation for others whenever you can. Don’t take anything for granted because each moment, lesson, and person are of value to the process of growing into who you want to be.

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