This year marks five years of ACE programming. We’re celebrating by looking back at our first year programs, reflecting with our first year participants on what ACE has meant to them, and learning what our ACE alums are up to now.
This week we interviewed Class of 2018 Duke graduate, Women’s Tennis team member and ACE in Vietnam ’16 alum, Becky Smaller. She reflects on how ACE solidified her belief in the unifying power of sport and how this belief has served her well in her current job at a sports talent agency.
What are you doing now? How did ACE influence your academic or career path?
Currently, I work in sports at a talent agency called William Morris Endeavor. My role is to help get the professional athletes that we represent endorsement, appearance, ambassadorship deals, and the like.
I think that ACE has absolutely influenced this career path. Due to my experiences as an athlete, I’ve always known the power that sport can have on multiple areas of life. Going to Vietnam to try and use sports to motivate young school kids to stay in school solidified this belief and made me want to stay in sports moving forward.
Linking this to my current job, I believe that professional athletes have such a powerful and incredible platform to, not only influence, but also inspire young kids to get involved in sports. In sum, ACE in Vietnam absolutely influenced my career path, and I’m so grateful for that!
This photo is from the annual Women’s Sports Foundation gala, which I was lucky enough to attend. It’s an event that brings together top female athletes, coaches, sports influencers, and celebrities from all around the world, with the aim of moving towards equality by inspiring millions of young girls to embrace the power of sport. Was an incredible night!
What was the most meaningful part of your ACE experience?
One of the most meaningful parts of my ACE experience was the realization of just how unifying sport is. In Vietnam, I taught soccer and English. I distinctively remember how diverse the class was. Some children were so shy they could barely make eye contact, yet some were so confident they put their hand up to answer every single question. Similarly, some barely had shoes that protected their feet, while some kids came in with new stationary each day.
“Going to Vietnam to try and use sports to motivate young school kids to stay in school solidified this belief and made me want to stay in sports moving forward.”
In class, you could see these differences, yet the second we put our pens down and started to play soccer, these differences disappeared. The shy kids were tackling the confident ones, the kids with broken shoes simply threw them to the side and started scoring. It all just really made me realize how sport unifies and how sport has this unique power to bring everyone together.
Share a story during your ACE experience that changed the way you now think about something.
One of my favorite memories from ACE in Vietnam is one that I will absolutely never forget as it has changed the way I sometimes make decisions. One afternoon when we were supposed to play soccer, it was absolutely pouring and the soccer pitch that we played on wasn’t your typical pitch. It was a large patch of grass, so uneven that during any sort of downpour, puddles would form and make it incredibly difficult to run around without falling face-first.
“This rainy afternoon taught me that sometimes just going with the flow and saying yes to things can unexpectedly lead to the most amazing memories.”
Just like any of us, I saw the downpour and was prepared to tell the class that we will just play games inside instead, only to realize that the whole class had already taken their shoes off, rolled up their pants, and were ready to play. Instead of watching them from inside to stay dry, I decided to join them; I took my shoes off, rolled up my pants, and for the next hour we slipped and slid all over the pitch, having the most incredible time. If I had decided to stay clean and dry inside, I wouldn’t have made this incredible memory and bond with all of the kids. This rainy afternoon taught me that sometimes just going with the flow and saying yes to things can unexpectedly lead to the most amazing memories.
Describe your ACE experience in as few words as possible.
A humbling and unforgettable experience that has led to incredible memories and life-long relationships
What’s one thing you want people to know about ACE?
For ACE in Vietnam, you might be going there focused on helping the young school kids, but don’t forget or underestimate the power of the relationships with the Vietnamese college students; they’re amazing!
What’s your hope for the ACE program and advice for future participants as we look ahead to the next five years?
My advice for future ACE participants is to be open to creating relationships with anyone and everyone; this includes fellow Duke student-athletes, Stanford student-athletes, but most importantly, anyone that you come into contact with while abroad. You’ll never know what impact they could have on your life and vice versa.