Last year we featured Dan McDonnell (University of Louisville) with an Intentional Walk Q & A called, “The Anatomy of a Mission Trip.” It was well-received, but a few coaches said, “sure, a high profile D-l program can make an international trip happen, but what about small colleges, high school and travel programs?” Well, since Dan took his team to the Dominican Republic, several other teams have taken trips through SCORE International, including the two we are featuring in this article, Birmingham-Southern College and Venice High School (FL). Recently, I had the opportunity to ask BSC Head Coach, Jan Weisberg and VHS Head Coach, Craig Faulkner about a few of the challenges and benefits of traveling internationally with a team.
Inside Pitch: What was one of the major highlights of your recent trip to the Dominican Republic from a team perspective?
Jan Weisberg: It was the bonding that occurred during our five day trip. The experience was completely out of our ordinary routine and to do it in wasn’t about winning or losing. We spend so much time working and preparing to compete, it was great to serve together, enjoy each other and play this great game with freedom and enjoyment. The highlight for me as a coach was to see the impact this trip had on our players. The lessons learned and the perspective they received through our service projects was awesome. Our players were able to see people who were happy, even without the comforts we have. After the trip, our players realized even more the importance of serving others.
Inside Pitch: Coach Faulkner, you have taken your teams on several international trips, including the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba. How do these trips benefit your team, the players as individuals and your coaching staff?
Craig Faulkner: Taking a team on a mission trip is life changing for players, parents and coaches. For many traveling with us it’s their first real exposure to the Gospel and to people who have so little of life’s basic necessities including food, clothes and shelter. Some of our possessions we think are so important, such as cell phones, we realize aren’t that important at all.
Inside Pitch: Coach Weisberg, is it too early to tell how your team or individual players may have grown from your experience back in October?
Jan Weisberg: Every time we work out we have a player share with the team about his life. This year, as part of that, we have asked each player to talk about how he has grown from the trip. I see significant growth.
Inside Pitch: Craig, what are the biggest challenges you face in travelling internationally with athletes?
Craig Faulkner: SCORE International plans everything from the flights, food, housing, ground transportation and the teams we play. One issue we have faced is convincing our players to keep their gloves, shoes and bats during the week, so that we will still have equipment for our last game! They see such a need they tend to give away nearly all of their gear they travel with!
Inside Pitch: Jan, what would you say to a coach who has thought seriously about going on a baseball/mission trip but for one reason or another hasn’t “pulled the trigger” on committing to it?
Jan Weisberg: JUST GO! Just like everything else in our lives, if you stay on the cliff of fear and don’t jump to the cliff of faith you won’t ever reach your goals. Once committed, the people at SCORE International helped tremendously. When you share with people the opportunity to expand your players’ lives through faith, service and international competition, the financial support wasn’t that hard.
Inside Pitch: Coach Faulkner, what do you learn about your athletes on these trips?
Craig Faulkner: I get to see a side of my athletes that I would never see without these mission trips. Their focus changes from inward to outward. Acts 20:35 reminds us: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”