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Jumbo Goes to Africa

Jumbo Goes to AfricaMembers of the Tufts field hockey team return from two weeks of exploring southern Africa.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.16.08] While the Tufts field hockey grinds it out on the turf at Bello Field every fall, last month the team took advantage of a unique opportunity to travel to Africa for some tough international competition and an up-close look at another culture.

The NCAA allows teams to take an international trip every four years, an opportunity which Coach Tina McDavitt says she simply couldn't pass up.

"I really wanted to give the girls this experience, so a couple of years ago I sent out an e-mail to the parents asking them what they thought about the idea," McDavitt says. "I got a message from [rising junior Margi Scholtes'] father who had recently relocated their family to Africa for his job, saying we just had to come there."

The women left the U.S. on May 19 and headed to Johannesburg, South Africa, where they stayed with the Scholtes family. In Africa, the teams entertained some top-level competition, playing games against the University of Pretoria team, the Western Province women's masters' team and a top high school team. In addition to the competition, the girls also conducted a clinic for local high school and middle school girls at the American School of Johannesburg.

"Field hockey is big all over the world and the level of play there is so high," McDavitt says. "We lost all our games, but that was on purpose, because I asked to play hard competition. These games don't count, so I would rather play teams that are better than us so that we can learn from them."




The team also learned off the playing field when they traveled to Soweto, one of the first townships founded during the apartheid era in Johannesburg. The Tufts athletes were able to meet area school children, giving them toys and games while taking in their culture

"It is eye-opening to see these people living in complete poverty and being able to interact with them," team captain and child development major Tess Jasinski (A'09) says. "They were all very welcoming."

Sites along this trip included the Hector Pieterson Museum named for a 12-year-old boy who was the first victim among students in Soweto who had held a peaceful uprising against the requirement to teach in Afrikaans in schools.

Other activities included a trip to Victoria Falls in Zambia and a visit with some fellow "Jumbos" at an elephant sanctuary.

Reflecting on their two-week journey, Jasinski says the trip provided a great opportunity for team bonding.

"Our team gets along really well together and this was a really great experience for us to share together," she says. "When we stayed in hotels we mixed it up so upperclassmen roomed with lowerclassmen, giving people a chance to really get to know each other better."

Jasinski adds with a laugh, "I feel bad for the freshmen next year, because I am sure it is all we will be talking about."

Profile by Kaitlin Melanson, Web Communications

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