Stephen Schirra took his first trip with Around the Worlds in 2015.
“Everything was working so smoothly,” said Schirra. “We were bouncing from country to country running programs with kids who really don't have access to these opportunities.”
Five years in, the Ellington native and UConn graduate had hit his stride with his non-profit, which brings soccer to underprivileged kids across the globe. To date, he’s run clinics and camps in 49 countries.
“The big milestone was country number 50,” said Schirra. That would have to wait.
As with so many things right now, the global pandemic put Around The Worlds on hold, but Schirra didn’t want the kids in his program to be put on hold too.
“The first couple of weeks it was a lot of ‘what do we do now?’” said Schirra.
It didn’t take him long to find his answer: creating short videos of different skills, challenges to keep those kids engaged.
“You know, every time I get a video from these kids my eyes just light up,” Schirra said. So far, he’s gotten videos from about 25 different countries.
But there’s one more surprise for the kids. At the end of each video: a professional player taking the challenge too.
“It's guys who played for Hartford Athletic, guys who attended UConn like myself,” said Schirra. “For them to attempt these things in their house in less than five minutes it seems so trivial to us but it really does matter to these kids.”
These past few months have been a lesson in adapting for all of us, but these kids already have that skill perfected.
“The most beautiful thing that we've seen come out on the other side of this is just how these kids adapt and kids do it better than anyone else,” said Schirra. “Just to see how these kids adapt and how they overcome and how they redefine this sense of play, it's just the coolest thing ever.”