Wildcat athletes spend week in Nicaragua building a sports court for local youth

K-State Track and Field athletes warmup for their track meet in Ahearn Field House on Feb. 17, 2017. (File photo by John Benfer | The Collegian)

It was a trip of a lifetime for 15 Kansas State student-athletes earlier this summer. The Wildcat athletes participated in “Cats Across Continents” in Nicaragua, where they volunteered to help those less fortunate.

The Wildcats’ project was to build a multi-purpose court for the Nicaraguan kids to use in the village.

“Literally, these kids were so happy to just play. They were dribbling soccer balls, volleyballs. They didn’t care what it was,” Jordan Lund, a K-State rower and senior in chemical engineering, said to K-State Sports. “They just wanted to play. I think that was really eye opening for me and shows how much I took for granted, because I can think of four or five parks within easy biking distance from my house in Wichita, whereas they had nothing before this, so just having something simple made them so excited.”

This was the second straight year for K-State student athletes to travel to a foreign country and partner with Courts for Kids.

“To be able to go to a culture and completely immerse yourself in something that’s totally outside of your comfort zone was really eye opening for me,” Mitchell Dixon, track and field athlete and senior in management, said to K-State Sports. “It gave me an appreciation for what I have here in the [United] States and what K-State provides, but also an appreciation that it doesn’t take much to be happy. I witnessed a community that has much less than what we would consider to be a lot, and to them it was enough. All of them were incredibly happy every single day, and with what little they had, they still wanted to give.”

The court took about five days to build, said Dixon, which was faster than expected. Most of their work days began at 7 a.m. and went into mid-afternoon.

The Wildcats had help from several of the Nicaraguan community members, but the language barrier was another factor in the mix.

“The language barrier was immense, but they came every day and it was like sign language. We would just figure it out,” Rhizlane Siba, track and field athlete and senior in social sciences, said to K-State Sports. “Honestly, it went above the physical aspects in Nicaragua, and that’s what I think no one was expecting because we were there going for a court and we came back with so much more.”

Since the group that went to Nicaragua was a mix of student-athletes, Lund said they made a bond that they wouldn’t have even imagined.

“We actually talked a lot about how we’re trying to bring that back to K-State,” Lund said, “and find some ways that we can break the barriers within our student-athlete population, and not having a rowing team and a track team but have a group of athletes that all interact and know each other and care about each other.”