Local softball coach looks to help youngsters in Ghana
The 14U girls travel softball team, affectionately called the “Dirt Devils,” will travel anywhere to play a softball game, but when Coach Kristy Kuzminski saw a need while checking out social media she had no idea what it would turn into.
“I was just scrolling on Facebook when I came across a video of a coach in Ghana trying to teach girls the game of baseball,” Kuzminski said.
What she learned from watching the very short video clip was that the girls were playing with wads of paper balled up to give them something to throw, catch and hit. Kuzminski felt bad for the coach who was doing his best, and she knew she could help him and the girls on his team.
From a Facebook video taken in West Africa, Kuzminski saw a need and knew she wanted to help so she sent a message to Viktor Buxton, the coach in the video, introduced herself, told him of her team and offered to help in anyway they could.
“It was just two coaches talking softball. He told of his needs and I told him I would talk to my girls and get back in touch,” Kuzminski said.
The coach from Warren was moved by the struggle of a fellow coach, but wasn’t sure what to do, so she reached out to Rick Rohlin, the president of the International Sports Academy, which is headquartered in Warren, and told him of her experience with Buxton in Ghana. Rohlin has a vast network of connections throughout the world, so he looked up the coach and made arrangements to go and meet with him and see what he could to help.
“It is absolutely what we do. We took Kristy’s vision for helping and took feet to an idea,” Rohlin said.
The idea of how to help has grown into so much more. Since Kuzminski first saw the video, she wanted to get her team directly involved with the girls in Ghana, so she got the local girls together and told them of her plan.
“They wanted in right away. The girls saw the need and wanted to connect,” Kuzminski said.
The simplest way the Dirt Devils thought they could do that was with a ball, so they signed a softball and sent it to Buxton in Ghana. From that one gesture, Kuzminski and Buxton thought they should connect the girls with each other directly and the idea of pen pals was born. While one set of letters has gone out from the Dirt Devils to the team in Ghana, they are awaiting the return from their counterparts.
But there’s more to the story. Kuzminski knew the girls in Ghana needed equipment, but how could it happen?
Rohlin and ISA stepped in again.
The organization put the wheels in motion to help set up where it needed to go.
“We have sent containers of sports equipment to Africa before,” Rohlin said, “so it was easy to start this process for Kristy.”
Rohlin has been in touch with officials in Ghana on the national level for baseball and has reached out to them as to how ISA can help. One interesting note is that, as of now, all youngsters play baseball. There is no official separation between baseball and softball for girls.
On April 10 and April 17, the Dirt Devils will be conducting a drop-off site for any baseball and softball equipment from 9 a.m. to noon at the HUB in Russell.
“If your kids have outgrown it or don’t use it anymore, if you are tired of looking at it or are tired of moving it in your garage, we want it, we will clean it up and see that it gets over to the kids that need it,” Kuzminski said.
They will be accepting old uniforms and baseball cleats as well.
Kuzminski saw a need and, with the help of Warren Little League, Lady Dragons softball and some individuals who have donated equipment, are off to a good start, but she needs the community’s help to get a full container.
“It’s going anyway, so we might as well fill it,” she said.
Kuzminski has said she has already seen the benefits for the girls on her team.
“I think it has shown them how lucky they are to play sports here in this country,” she said. “If this helps make them more aware of how things are for kids their age trying to play their sport in another country, it’s a win. I have plans to go over there with whoever wants to go. How cool would it be to play softball with the ball we sent over there with those girls.”
Rohlin added that he is in the planning stages of taking a group to Ghana and helping them out, too.
“I have two former Major League players who are ready to go,” he said. “I think it will be a great opportunity for young people to join us.”
For more information, check out the ISA website at www.isasports.org.