How has my sports history impacted my professional story?

We asked members of the WorldStrides Sports team to share their thoughts on how their background in sports influenced their careers.

“There’s so much to say about this for me. You know, growing up in Scotland, playing for teams, moving my way up through the ranks, the locker room made a big impact on me. It became a microcosm of life itself. Playing soccer, and the rollercoaster it can be – the ups, the downs, the wins, the losses, the injuries, cuts, tryouts, great coaches, bad coaches, managers, captains, lessons learned everywhere you turn. I represented the youth schoolboy national team and traveled all over Europe from 14-15 years old, learning incredible life lessons everywhere I went. And the memories I have: priceless. I remember playing in the U16 European youth championship. We beat Holland in the quarterfinals, beat France (the host country) in the semis, and lost 0-1 to Russia in the finals. So many great players gathered there that went on to do such great things in the sport. My youth club in Scotland was the same club as David Moyes, Sir Alex Ferguson, Walter Smith, Andy Gray, John Wark, and Archie Gemmill. That means a lot to me. That’s the kind of club I’m proud to belong to, and it drives me to represent it for the rest of my life.” – Eric McAleer, Senior Vice President

“I came to the United States as a young 18-year-old to play college soccer in Missouri at Truman State University, located in a rural town called Kirksville. It was a town with a typical midwestern square with the courthouse in the middle and stores all around it. There was one main road through the outside of town, usually filled with massive trucks and lined with fast food establishments from start to finish. I didn’t know anyone and we started pre-season in 110-degree weather. Over the next few years of playing and coaching in the college space, I was fortunate to travel around the country to places like Florida, Texas, and Colorado, as well as visit too many small towns in the Midwest for games. When I started my professional career with WorldStrides, I always thought back to the rush I got from coming here to play, then being able to travel to various different states to play and coach. There’s something exhilarating about traveling for a game and experiencing new stadiums and environments. Of course, that feeling was taken to a new height when you won! However, I always appreciated being able to visit new places and experience a new culture. Now, I get the same buzz from being able to provide that opportunity to student-athletes, coaches, and families. Being able to travel on tour with these groups and to see them take in a Premier League stadium, the Eiffel Tower, or Buckingham Palace doesn’t give you the same feeling of winning a game on the road, but it always reminds me how fortunate we all are to be able to do what we do. Having experienced a lot of travel as I grew up, it is extremely rewarding to be able to help people experience the same thing and get them to want to do it as soon as they return! With COVID-19 changing our world, I feel even more fortunate to have this opportunity and I know we will all provide our players and teams with an even better experience as we come out of these strange times.” – Jonny Brown, Business Development Specialist

“Sport has always been at the forefront of my life. From an early age, it was what I loved: playing soccer from dusk till dawn during the summers; playing tennis during Wimbledon season using two chairs and a piece of string for a net; or using the new golf clubs I got for Christmas on the frost-hardened ground at home in Scotland, just because I couldn’t wait until the ground thawed. My favorite subject in school was P.E. I studied Sport and Leisure Management at university, moved to the U.S. to coach soccer, and now am incredibly fortunate to create opportunities for student-athletes to see the world through sport. I have developed as an individual because of my experiences through sport. It gave me confidence, independence, identity, and the opportunity to see the world.” – Steven Macdonald, Account Executive

“When I was in 6th grade, I had the opportunity to travel abroad to Liverpool and London, England with my soccer team. For many of us, it was our first time traveling internationally, myself included. Being able to spend a week abroad with my best friends in a foreign country was an amazing experience and is a memory that I will forever cherish. Traveling abroad not only shaped me into a different soccer player, but it also opened up my eyes to a completely different culture. It truly changed my life. When my old teammates and I get together, it’s something that we always talk about to this day. We created so many lifelong memories together! My 6th grade England trip has come full circle, as I now have the opportunity to help others create a once-in-a-lifetime experience when they travel with WorldStrides Sports.” – Morgan O’Donnell, Senior Account Manager

“I grew up playing multiple sports in England and was fortunate to travel with my family across Europe on vacation. No matter where we visited, there was always a sporting event or location on our itinerary! My high school P.E. teacher had a lasting impression on my life as he pushed me to further my interest in soccer predominantly, but also swimming – both of which I continued into university. When in university, I found an opportunity to travel to the U.S. coaching soccer every summer, and in turn was given the life-changing chance to move full-time to Texas. I grew up watching old westerns with my Grandad every Sunday, so it was an easy decision for me! Fast forward 15 years and I’m working in an industry that combines two things that have always been my passion: sports and travel. I love providing these same opportunities to athletes, as I appreciate how much sports and travel changed the trajectory of not only my career, but also my life.” – Matt Veasey, Account Executive

“I had the privilege of playing lacrosse in college, and I was lucky to be submerged into a culture driven by a passion for the game and fighting to reach a common goal. Before I even stepped on campus, I instantly had 30 new best friends. When I graduated, I longed to find a similar atmosphere in a workplace. WorldStrides Sports is a team full of winners, all striving to be the best in our space. We get to go to work every day and compete. Organizing international trips that are life-changing for young athletes is so rewarding. When you love what you do, it makes a world of difference.” – Ashley Crites, Manager of Sales & Account Management

“It wasn’t until I started coaching that I realized just how important sports were to me growing up. It gave me the opportunity to practice life skills in a safe, fun environment. I am now privileged to be in a position to offer those same opportunities to a new generation of young people. It is incredibly rewarding to play a small part in their development as confident, empowered, and resilient leaders.” – Sam York, Account Executive

“Traveling to Germany as a 13-year-old to play against German opposition and train with German coaches was a huge part of my soccer life and upbringing. It really opened my eyes to football around the world and helped me realize that it was not only English kids that played soccer. I made some great friends in Germany on that trip that I still stay in touch with today. When I was at university, I came to the U.S. to coach soccer in the summer and realized the love for the game and the rapid growth the sport was experiencing here. By doing so, I was able to meet my wife, start a family, and become a U.S. citizen. If it was not for experience in Germany, I don’t think I would have come to the U.S. for a summer job – and as a result of that, now live in the U.S. and work in a job I feel incredibly passionate about while giving back to American children and helping them experience soccer culture around the world.” – Jamie Kent, Account Executive

Why does it matter that we’re an accredited organization?

Education is at the heart of every WorldStrides program. Our company started in 1967, with one teacher leading one class to one city, Washington, D.C., in order to see our nation’s capital for themselves and experience real learning through authentic experience.

Since then, we’ve grown to include a wide variety of experiential travel programs for students of all ages and passions – sports, science, theatre, performing arts, study abroad, career exploration, and more. And this growth has been fueled by educational integrity.

Our accreditation status – stamps of approval from Cognia (formerly AdvancED) WASC, and MSA-CESS, the same organizations that accredit K-12 schools across the country – is a testament to our own standards and evidence that they align with the same requirements for nearly every school in America.

We regularly renew our accreditation credentials. That means we never lose sight of the profound educational impact we offer our participants and those who lead them. That means we prioritize evaluating and evolving all of our programs to meet the needs of today’s classrooms and today’s students.

There is a student in every student-athlete. There is an educator in every coach and athletic director. Our programs aim to excite these student-athletes and coaches with new experiences on their chosen field of play, to present new challenges that take their game further – and our educational philosophy endeavors to take that growth further.

We call that philosophy Learning through Exploring and Actively Participating, or LEAP.

LEAP is designed to ensure that all students interact with their surroundings and are engaged with hands on activities, challenged to think critically from multiple points of view, and to grow personally and intellectually. In the Sports division, we encourage our student-athletes to pay close attention to how sports can grow their global perspective through their engagement with the new cultures and competition. This comes in many forms: sitting in a stadium of 50,000 signing soccer fans, playing a lacrosse game against a team in Ireland, or being trained by a coach of a professional academy program.  There is enlightenment in experience.

Traveling from city to city, competing in games, training with coaches, visiting museums, participating in a service learning project – these are examples of student-athletes learn without direct instruction, without being “taught.” They develop confidence and skills not necessarily associated with the classroom, creating their own understanding of the world, its cultures and perspectives within. Read more about our LEAP philosophy here.

Using LEAP as a springboard, student-athletes can choose to reflect upon their learning and experiences and earn academic credit. By taking advantage of this opportunity, student-athletes not only can enhance their school careers, but also start a successful path to higher education.

Student-athletes in grades 6-12 at the time of travel can earn free high school credits.
Student-athletes in grades 9-12 at the time of travel are eligible to earn free College Preparatory Credits through UCSD-Extension.
Students-athletes can register for coursework before, during, or after the travel portion of the program. Upon successful completion, a transcript with a letter grade is mailed directly the student.

Student-athletes who enroll in our “Leadership & Character” course earn credit from a combination of a self-reflection of their trip experience and online coursework completed after their return, and we don’t just dole it out. That would run counter to our educational integrity and philosophy. On average, students can expect to complete the required course hours in two ways of instruction in two ways: in the field by trained, certified and licensed tour directors (the trip itself); and  in an accompanying online course that includes multiple assessments of student learning, direct individualized teacher feedback, and engaging opportunities to demonstrate higher order thinking and applications of knowledge. Coursework is graded by our credentialed team of educators who support our student-athletes until they meet the requirements to earn their transcript.

The benefits of international travel are tremendous. And numerous. Simply put, it broadens minds and influences perspectives, especially for young people. Our company-wide focus on educational quality, supported by our accredited status and the opportunity it brings to earn academic credit, is not only unique in our world, it gives us all tremendous pride.

Visit the WorldStrides website to learn more about academic credit and our educators and educational mission.

Jamie Kent is an Account Executive at WorldStrides Sports. Jamie joined the WorldStrides Excel team in January 2018. He brings a wealth of soccer knowledge and experience on the West Coast from his 15 years working in the youth soccer camps and training market, where he developed fantastic relationships and respect from professionals in the soccer industry. Passionate about the game he loves most, Jamie is excited to be able to help clubs, colleges and high schools provide international travel for their players to help broaden their horizons.