Girl Scout Senior Isla Horscroft wanted to share her love for soccer with people around the world. What set out to be a goodwill soccer game between a few Minnesotan and Nicaraguan girls, became an eye-opening experience in which she discovered larger issues related to girls and sports around the world—and ultimately Isla’s Gold Award project.
The girls Isla met in San Carlos, Nicaragua wanted to play sports, but didn’t have the space, equipment, or confidence to organize their own teams like the boys in the community did. Studies show that teenage girls who play sports do better in school, have stronger relationships, and are overall healthier. So when Isla learned that only 13% of girls in Nicaragua have played organized sports, she knew she could do something to increase that number.
“The girls don’t generally play team sports; they don’t have a place to play and society doesn’t encourage it,” said Isla. “This issue is important to me because I feel that everyone should have an equal opportunity to exercise and play sports.”
Isla worked with her Tonka United soccer team, including Grace Robinson—fellow River Valleys Girl Scout—and partnered with Project Minnesota/Leon, an organization that works to strengthen community development by connecting the people from Minnesota and the people of Nicaragua. She also received a grant for her project from the Ann Bancroft Foundation, which provides funding to Minnesota girls to achieve their goals and gain confidence to take on leadership positions.
To prepare for the trip, she organized donations for sports equipment, including cleats, uniforms, and portable soccer goals. Isla then traveled to San Carlos and led a group of girls in three days of soccer clinics, followed by a day-long soccer camp for preschool children. Through the clinic, the girls learned to dribble, shoot, pass the ball, and how to play as a team.
Additionally, she led a series of meetings with local community leaders and family members in San Carlos to help keep the program sustainable. She also helped find a coach for the girls, who helps organize and motivate the team.
The girls’ soccer team that Isla helped create is now active in the community. Although they currently play on a dusty, dried-up peanut field, they plan to rent the portable soccer goals to people in their community and save up to buy their own piece of land, where they can practice and play.
“There is a new respect for girls and sports in San Carlos now,” said Isla. “I couldn’t be happier to be a part of that change.”