Basketball Teams Grow Closer with Missions Opportunity in Costa Rica

Blog By: David Balza, PBA Head Men's Basketball Coach

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.- The Palm Beach Atlantic men’s and women’s basketball teams wrapped up their nearly 10 day trip to Costa Rica with some team bonding and service opportunities over the weekend. The teams will return home on  Monday having surely impacted many lives for the Kingdom.

Written by: David Balza, PBA Head Men’s Basketball Coach

After six clinics and eight games over the first four days of our trip, the Sailfish men’s and women’s basketball teams took a break from their Workship and basketball responsibilities on Friday to experience the rain forest of Costa Rica.  The student-athletes were up early to eat and hit the road for the two hour drive up into the mountains where they enjoyed a Zip Line canopy tour through the jungle.  It was an amazing experience for all. I know I speak for all of us in saying that this was one of many highlights on this trip that we will remember for years to come. Taking in the sights from the tree tops helped us realize how truly blessed we are.

On Friday night, the men’s team travelled to Guadalupe to play their fifth and final game of the week at Catholic University.  The Sailfish ran away from the outnumbered and overmatched locals, scoring a trip high 101 points.  Sophomore Dakota Zinser took home Player of the Game honors as he scored a team and trip high 31 points. Redshirt freshman Trey Koonce continued his superb play on the trip with another double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds. ‘El Grande’ Cory Kenning had another nice game, posting 13 points, four rebounds and three assists with no turnovers. Seniors Michael Simpson (10 points) and Giles Chapman (3 assts & 4 rebs) contributed as well. Freshmen Malek Barber (8 points and 9 rebs) and Bakari Warthen (12 points and 5 assists) impressed as well. The fifth freshman, Chase Picerne, scored a trip-high 8 points. With the win, the Sailfish men finished the week 5-0. This was a very worthwhile trip for our team, as it gave them invaluable court experience and helped us to see the roles that each of these young men can play this upcoming season.

For the first time all week, we were back before midnight.  Another neat aspect of the trip has been the late night fellowship that takes place within and among the teams. Whether it was a game of foosball, cards or Risk, or just sitting around talking, the time spent together at night was a valuable chemistry builder for our programs.  Coach Palacio led the Saturday morning devotional, following which our teams were challenged to a game of Futbol (Soccer) by some of the local kids of Coronado.  Apparently the skill it takes to play basketball does not exactly translate to soccer, as the kids won handily over our teams.

We had an opportunity following the game to share with the kids.  We gave them the remaining shoes that we had collected and brought with us. Unfortunately we had about three pair too few to give each of the kids some shoes. Seeing this, Chase Picerne, Casey Carpinello and Dakota Zinser literally took the shoes off their own feet and gave them to the kids, some of whom had walked over two miles to spend time with us.  Another freshman, Malek Barber, gave one of the kids his brand new Nike jacket as well.  In the end, not only did our student-athletes share time and their shoes, but in doing so shared the love of Christ. 

Speaking of the love of Christ, there may not have been a more moving experience on this trip than our jaunt to the Hagor Vista Mar Orphanage.  We had a chance to visit and interact with nearly 80 children at the orphanage for several hours Saturday afternoon.  We gave out teddy bears that we had collected during a game promotion to many of the children. In addition, an anonymous donor had given Coach Palacio some money, with which we bought some much needed clothing and blankets for the orphanage, as well as some crayons and toys for the kids. We brought snacks and cake as well to share. We even brought a large (and very heavy as we found out) play set to give to the orphanage. That was a very big hit with the children, who really enjoyed playing on the playground and in the gym with our basketball teams. 

Our student-athletes did a terrific job of interacting and spending one-on-one time with so many of the kids.  I know I was not the only one who had a tough time leaving there. I think we all wanted to adopt the kids and bring them home with us.  What we hopefully left them with, though, was a fun experience and a glimpse at the love of their Savior through the love of our teams.

On the way back to the High Performance Sports complex, we made a stop at a local favorite – Kaffa Café, where many of our players (and coaches) partook of the different coffees and frozen milk shakes. From there, we headed to our host Ricardo Rodriguez’ home.  He and his family and workers put on an amazing cook-out, with many local favorites as well as steak, sausage and chicken on the grill. Ricardo is an amazing man who runs this business as a labor of love.  He is a Christian who is truly invested in making the time of his visitors a memorable one.  We will long remember his hospitality. We ended the evening by giving him a few mementos from Palm Beach Atlantic University, including a commemorative basketball, shirt and basketball jersey. 

Sunday afforded our teams the first chance to actually sleep in. Most took advantage of this, while a few went with Ricardo into town to take in the farmer’s market. They came back with all sorts of unique fruits for the group to try. The afternoon included a tour of the area along with some souvenir shopping time in the local markets, followed by a church service (in English even) in the evening. 

Bright and early Monday morning, we headed for the airport to head back home and get ready for the start of school.  The week has certainly flown by.  We would be remised if we did not take the time to thank the many people who made this trip possible, from President Fleming and Athletic Director Carolyn Stone to the many donors, Ricardo, Coach White and the student-athletes who gave of themselves both to make this trip and to share the love of Jesus with the people of Costa Rica. Adios and God bless!

Coach Balza

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