By: Student Assistant Vince Menon '14
Bronco women's soccer player Alexis Rubattino (AR) spent her 2012 spring break far away from the familiarity of the Mission Campus, traveling to the Dominican Republic to help underprivileged and orphaned kids. The junior Bronco goalkeeper thoroughly enjoyed her first trip outside of her home country, forming many close bonds with the locals while gaining a deeper understanding of her life goals. Fresh off the trip and a successful spring soccer season, Rubattino caught up with www.SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCB) about her experience in the Dominican Republic and her efforts to gain the coveted title of starting goalkeeper for the Bronco women's soccer team.
SCB: You took a trip to Central America over spring break. Where did you go and who did you go with?
AR: Over spring break I went to the Dominican Republic (Constanza and Sosua) to help build a house and teach a P.E. class at an orphanage/public school. I was there for nine days, but it felt much shorter! I didn't travel through Santa Clara; instead it was though a program called Kids Alive International, an organization that sends college student-athletes from all over California on mission trips.
I went with four other SCU students: Megan Anderson (volleyball), Tanya Schmidt (volleyball), Kyle Nadel (water polo) and Rhys Marks (a former water polo player). None of my fellow teammates came this session; however there are many underclassmen that are now very interested!
SCB: Has this type of trip and this trip specifically been something you've wanted to do for a while? What inspired you to travel during your break to help others?
AR: Kids Alive International is a Christian faith mission dedicated to helping orphaned children through spiritual, physical, educational and emotional needs. I had not been researching such trips, however a friend from home told me to this trip and I realized it was something I could really learn from. I had never left the country and I love working with children, especially within athletics, so the trip seemed perfect for me.
SCB: What was the purpose or goal of the trip? What did you hope to gain from the experience?
AR: Having never left the country, I was really hoping to expose myself to one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. The trip's goal was to give the children living at the orphanage as well as those attending the public school hope and a positive influence in their lives. After I graduate I hope to serve in a poverty-stricken country and help out in any way I can. I have no idea where I want to go, but I would love to stay for a long period of time and really make a difference. I would suggest this trip, or any trip like it to everyone. I think we are at the perfect age in our lives to take a break to help out as well as have our lives changed by changing another's.
SCB: How did you prepare for the trip, both individually and as a group?
AR: As a group, we were prepared by our group leaders, however individually none of us knew what we were getting into. Hearing from the children themselves how they became orphaned, abused, neglected, starved or abandoned was very difficult. At the same time, the whole culture was different; we were welcomed with such open arms into people's homes and lives.
SCB: What did you do when you were there? Take us through some of the daily activities and routines.
AR: It took an entire day to travel, but after arriving there we went though many logistics for the days to come. On our first real day, we got acquainted with the town, attended a local Christian service and hiked up to a beautiful waterfall. Monday through Friday we were at "El Arca" from 9am-4pm working with the children. El Arca is half-orphanage and half-elementary school. The orphanage holds nearly 30 children in five houses on the property. The elementary school teaches around 200 poverty stricken children. There were two shifts: half of us would work with the school children (ages 3-14) and incorporate soccer and volleyball while the other shift would dig the foundation for the director of El Arca. We were prepared food by locals and spent our free time walking around town through the various barrios, seeing what the elementary school children's lives were like at home. Nearly every night while our power and electricity were out, we went and scrimmaged the newly formed soccer teams.
SCB: What was the biggest surprise and how did you adjust to that? What did you learn and what perspective did you gain from the experience?
AR: I was most shocked by the children. Most of the population lives on two dollars a day and many of the children we encountered had a severely difficult childhood. Drug and alcohol abuse is sadly common among adults, as is sexual assault and abuse. To us, it looked like these children had nothing, and were often treated like nothing, but when we meet them, they seemed to have everything. Half the time, we strayed from what we were supposed to be doing and simply played with the kids because we realized that all they wanted was to be loved, hugged and focused on. We were awe-stricken at how wise and optimistic the children were. I have gained so much from the trip: how easy and gratifying it is to give back, how big of an impact I can truly make, and to never, ever take for granted my life or what I have, because I truly don't "need" any of it.
SCB: What was the highlight of the trip for you?
AR: The highlight to the trip was a relationship that I made with one of the orphanage children. By the end of the trip, we both cried as I left. I have no idea how we became so close, or when, but he amazed me every time I saw him. The last night I finally found out how he became orphaned and while it saddened me to hear how he was treated, I feel comfort knowing that even with all he went through, he is still an incredible kid and will always be that way. I already have plans to stay in touch with him and others in the DR.
SCB: How was it coming back to the United States? Did you see things any differently?
AR: Coming back to the United States, I realized how friendly the people there were. Because I am not fluent in Spanish, I often stumbled my way through conversations, yet everyone I talked to helped me with no judgment (as far as I could tell!). As we walked through the streets everyone we passed said hello and if we were lost they approached us to direct us home.
SCB: Switching gears, how are offseason practices and workouts going? What are your main goals for the spring as a team and individually?
AR: The offseason is going so well this year. We have a new strength and conditioning staff that is working closely with our coaching staff to make this the most productive offseason yet. We are really trying to focus on playing in a way that emphasizes our talents. While we are a very young team, our team has tremendous talent and skill on the ball, and because of this we are working towards keeping and possessing the ball more. As always, one of our biggest goals is to score more goals, because we had so many low-scoring ties last season.
SCB: In spring play, the team defeated the semi-professional Sacramento Storm 3-0 and topped Cal 4-2. What did these victories tell you about the team's progress and your own progress?
AR: We were so happy to get those first two wins. First, we were thrilled to have scored so much; seven goals in two games is awesome and our attacking players worked really hard and deserved every goal, and maybe some more. Our team chemistry has come very far this off-season, as well as our ability to keep the ball. While there is still a lot of work to do, we are definitely seeing progress!
SCB: With Bianca Henninger, one of the best collegiate goalkeepers in the country, graduating this past year, how are you looking to step up and fill the void in goal? Is there a great deal of competition for this role and how are you handling that?
AR: There is so much competition for the starting spot. Another goalkeeper and I are fighting for it right now, and we also have a very talented freshman coming in next year. Bianca is incredible, and while the void is large, I have learned so much from her that I know I am ready to step into her shoes. While I don't have much experience, I have also had a chance to watch, play with and learn from one of the best goalkeepers in the country. I am really excited to fight for this spot and most of all to keep working and help my team reach its potential next year.
SCB: Finally, what are you still looking to improve on most as a team and for your own game before the season starts?
AR: I am most looking forward to spending more time with the team and our new backline, getting comfortable together. We are such a young team and as we get more comfortable together, our game is becoming much more creative and so much fun to watch and be a part of. As we continue to work on keeping the ball, my goal is to get much more comfortable with the ball at my feet, so I can help the field players achieve their goals.