10 for 10 with Jamie Kent

Who are you and what do you do at WorldStrides?
Jamie Kent, West Coast Sales Team Lead. I look after our sales on the west coast and manage a team of folks who work directly with coaches, technical directors, athletic directors, and parents to create amazing experiences that change the lives of youth athletes forever!

How long have you worked with WorldStrides?
Almost 3 years now.

WorldStrides goes to so many destinations, but what has been your favorite destination that you have visited while working for WorldStrides?
Paris, France during the Women’s World Cup in 2019!

What are the top three things you did while you were in Paris?
I got to watch four (!!) World Cup games, including three USA games and the epic Scotland vs Argentina 3-3 tie with VAR controversy!

Traveled with one of our groups for the day to play against a local girls team in a beautiful little village on the outskirts of Paris, and afterwards we got to meet and socialize with the locals.

I got around to see nine of our groups whilst I was there for two weeks. It was so rewarding to see all of their faces and how excited they were about everything.

What’s the number one thing you would tell somebody to NOT miss if they visit Paris?
The obvious tourist attractions are easy, but you absolutely have to sample the Parisian cafés and their outside seating. The atmosphere and ambiance is truly remarkable.

Do you know any weird or strange facts about Paris?
This isn’t necessarily weird or strange, but I think it’s interesting how Paris became known as The City of Light (that’s “light” singular, not plural) – because it was the first major city to adopt street lights.

What was your favorite food or drink you tried while there?
I did try escargo whilst I was there, and I have to say they were quite tasty. I also ate a delicious croque monsieur!

Did you buy a souvenir and if so, what was it?
Nothing for myself but I bought my daughter a bunch of clothes. For my son, I brought back a plush toy Eiffel Tower…that he’s played with once and that’s about it!

If you could pick your next trip, where would you go?
Australia and New Zealand for the next Women’s World Cup in 2023!

What’s the best travel tip you could pass along to future travelers?
Travel light. It makes a huge difference moving through airports and on ground transportation.

10 for 10 with WorldStrides Sports – Morgan O’Donnell

Who are you and what do you do at WorldStrides?
Morgan O’Donnell. As a Senior Account Manager, I help manage some of our key clientele & work with our operations team to create once in a lifetime trips!

How long have you worked with WorldStrides?
A little over 5 years, I started on June 1st, 2015. Time flies when you’re having fun! 😊

WorldStrides goes to so many destinations, but what has been your favorite destination that you have visited while working for WorldStrides?
Copenhagen, Denmark

What are the top three things you did while you were in Copenhagen?
Visited Tivoli Gardens, the 2nd oldest operating amusement park in the world!
Copenhagen Canal Tour
Climbed the winding staircase to the top of the “Church of our Saviour” which had some of the best views of the city!

What’s the number one thing you would tell somebody to NOT miss if they visit Copenhagen?
Nyhavn, one of the most picturesque places in in the city!

Do you know any weird or strange facts about Copenhagen?
There are 5 times as many bikes as there are cars in Copenhagen. Biking is their preferred mode of transportation!

What was your favorite food or drink you tried while there?
Rather than a favorite dish, I’ll share my favorite spot to grab a bite to eat, Torvehallerne. It’s a glass market that has a variety of food and drinks to try.

Did you buy a souvenir and if so, what was it?
Unlike some of my other co-workers (I won’t name names), I didn’t buy anything too extravagant when I was there. I kept it more simplistic and bought a water painting of Nyhavn.

If you could pick your next trip, where would you go?
Portugal! Our teams that travel there always come back and share how amazing the country is.

What’s the best travel tip you could pass along to future travelers?
Bring a portable phone charger, you’ll never know when you might need to use it!

10 for 10 with WorldStrides Sports – Jonny Brown

Who are you and what do you do at WorldStrides?

Jonny Brown, Sales Operation Specialist

I manage many of our key ODP and NCAA accounts.

How long have you worked at WorldStrides?

Just over three years.

WorldStrides goes to so many destinations, but what has been your favorite destination that you have visited while working for WorldStrides?

I have been lucky to travel to a few places while working for WorldStrides Sports, but my favorite would have to be visiting London & Manchester with Marquette Men’s Soccer.

What are the top three things you did while in England?

  1. Saw the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
  2. Toured Old Trafford & Anfield – two of the most historic and famous stadiums in the soccer world.
  3. Visited the Cavern Club in Liverpool, which is where the Beatles first started playing together.

What is the number one thing that you would tell somebody to not miss if they visit England?

Make sure you take a guided walking tour of London so you can see the House of Parliament, Tower of London, the London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, and many more landmarks.

Do you know any weird or strange facts about England?

The taxicab drivers you see in London must pass a test called The Knowledge, which can take 2-4 years to prepare for, in order to drive a taxi (referred to as a black cab) around the city!

What was your favorite food or drink that you tried while there?

Fish and chips in London, high tea in Oxford, and a pint of Guinness in the Nag’s Head in Manchester!

Did you buy a souvenir and if so, what was it?

I bought some clothing from the Manchester United megastore, which is said to be the biggest team store in the world.

If you could pick your next trip, where would you go?

Barcelona would absolutely be my next choice.

What is the best travel tip that you can pass along to customers?

Try and be active as soon as you arrive to your destination so that you stay up all day, get a good night sleep on the first night, and beat the jet lag!

 

How Eric met Sasho…

I first met Coach Sasho Cirovski in the Summer of June of 1997 as a Soccer Camp Coach at the University of Maryland. We have been friends since and I’ve been super fortunate to be around one of the top NCAA soccer programs in the country – and one of the top coaches in the country. Maryland Men’s Soccer have traveled internationally in 2004, 2008 and in 2018 and we were honored to be chosen as their travel partner on each occasion. All three trips were to the UK and NCAA National titles were won in 2005 and in 2018! They’ve played against teams such as Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Glasgow Celtic (who were coached by the legendary Tommy Burns), QPR, Hearts and Crystal Palace. They’ve attended top EPL games involving Manchester United, Spurs, Arsenal and Brighton. I’ve personally traveled on all three trips and had the great fortune of seeing top players such as Jason Garey, Maurice Edu, Zack Steffen and Donovan Pines play against some of the best young professional players in the UK. The high level of the Maryland program was evident against such high quality opposition. One game v’s Crystal Palace in London had 10+ pro scouts in attendance watching Zack Steffen who, just recently, signed a 7 million pound deal with Manchester City. We are very proud to have played a part in this awesome journey – Go Terps!!

Fire, Ice, And “Hidden People”: How Iceland’s National Team Reflects the Landscape

There’s a thunderclap. And then plumes of hot volcanic ash arrive like a Viking invasion.

In April 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Southern Iceland erupted, shutting down European airspace and causing the worst disruption in international travel since September 11, 2001. According to the Huffington Post, the giant ash cloud that hovered over northern Europe affected 10 million travelers, and airlines lost at least $1.7 billion.

Still, Eyjafjallajokull’s ash cloud had a silver lining: Iceland, a small, remote island in the North Atlantic, home to more sheep (800,000) than people (350,000), was now on the tourist map. Travel to Iceland from North America was up 13% in 2010, and by 2017 the number of foreign visitors exceeded 2,000,000 for the first time.

But the Eyjafjallajokull eruption can be viewed another way, too. Maybe it was nature’s response to the 2008 financial crash that saw the collapse of Iceland’s three major banks and the Icelandic krona lose almost half its value overnight. Or maybe the volcanic eruption was the heralding of Iceland’s national soccer team, and a thundering precursor to the rise of a soccer-mad nation.

Since 2010, Iceland has quietly become a soccer powerhouse. They shocked the world by beating England 2-1 in a last-16 match at the 2016 European Championship, and then shocked it again by qualifying for its first World Cup in 2018.

“Afram Island!” (Onward Iceland!)

Iceland National Team

Iceland is a land of sagas, and the story of the men’s national team is one of the best. The squad jumped 91 places on the FIFA World ranking in five years, cracking the Top 20 for the first time in March 2018.

The team’s style of play is calm, composed, patient, and heavy on defense –a point Ronaldo emphasized after Iceland and Portugal played to a 1-1 draw in the first fixture of the 2016 European Championship –with flashes of counterattack after an opponent makes a mistake.

Iceland favors set pieces like corner kicks and throw-ins, and have revived the long throw, a specialty of midfielder Aron Gunnarsson, who, like “Thor the Hammer Hurler,” repeatedly catches defenders off guard by launching bombs into the penalty area.

In comparison to Germany, Argentina, and Spain, Iceland evokes a slow, deliberate, unforgiving, and almost glacial style of play. Some critics call it boring; in fact, commentators at the 2018 World Cup said Iceland’s defensive style was an affront to the beautiful game. Others call it underdog football.

In fact, the team’s style of play is a lot like the Icelandic landscape –fire and ice. A typical Iceland match features 85 minutes of glacial floodplains, frigid mountains, and deep, quiet fjords, followed by five minutes of majestic waterfalls, rocketing geysers, and fiery volcanoes.

Watching an Icelandic football game is like waiting for the Northern Lights to appear; maybe something spectacular will happen -a highlight reel goal from an impossibly narrow angle, a long-range strike, a flying volley –but more often than not the goals are utilitarian, selfless, efforts of collaboration and teamwork rather than pure strikes, and the games are decidedly low scoring affairs.

Maybe it’s the close-knit nature of the Icelandic players that’s the key to the team’s run of success. Or maybe the squad’s passionate fan base has something to do with it, a fan base that’s reached beyond the borders of Scandinavia, bringing its thunderclap and Viking horns wherever it goes, creating a global hysteria whenever the team takes the pitch. Perhaps it’s the country’s commitment to high-quality coaching and the fact that it’s invested in several full-size, indoor soccer facilities in the past 15 years.

Or maybe Iceland’s “hidden people” –the elves, sprites, and trolls that make their home in the country’s landscape, are simply working their magic.

The Countdown Begins: 199 Days Until WWC

Women's World Cup, France 2019

The Women’s World Cup is 199 days away, and I’m excited! France is a fantastic soccer country, has a wonderful and unique culture – and they will do a fantastic job of hosting the event. USA have qualified, they will be one of the strong favorites, and have some of the best female players in the world hitting the prime of their career. Selfishly, I’m also excited as my home country – Scotland- has qualified for their first ever major women’s tournament and has some awesome young players playing at the best clubs in the world. They also have a very impressive head coach, Shelly Kerr, who is a fantastic leader and I fully expect her to push her team to great heights. We have many teams visiting the 2019 World Cup and I’m sure they will all leave with lasting life-long memories of a beautiful country and a wonderful event. I will be there with my tartan scarf and my “Braveheart” painted face! I hope to see you there!

 

Who will you be rooting for? We asked our office staff who they want to win. Check out their thoughts.

2019 Womens World Cup

Discovering international sports travel: How I found my “why”

The first time I traveled, I was in my 3rd year (10th grade) at Clydebank High School, just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. It was 1982 and an opportunity arose for me to travel with our high school soccer team to Switzerland for a week-long soccer and cultural experience. It was my first time outside of the UK and I was beyond excited.

The 24-hour bus journey was a novelty. We entertained ourselves and got to know our teammates. We sang, slept, ate, played games and made the journey fly by quickly. We played many soccer games against local Swiss high schools, enjoyed post-match social gatherings, did some daily sightseeing and enjoyed the beauty of Switzerland.

Endless games of table tennis were played at night, we were busy during the day, and we embraced all that their culture had to offer. I ate my first piece of rare meat there and vividly remember that first sight of blood squirting from my food. We took hikes and daily walks and discovered the beautiful little town of “Les Arses”.

My eyes had been opened and my curiosity levels kick-started. With soccer being the world’s global sport, a common “language” spoken in every country in the world, my journey had begun. It continues to this day, and my curiosity factor – and my “why” – just keeps going.

The varying levels of passion for the game intertwined with the cultural differences throughout the world make this journey nothing short of fascinating. Soccer breaks down the barriers of language, race, creed and color. Soccer gives hope to millions and brings people together like no other sport.

Since then, I have called this my “why” moment. This is the moment that inspired my love for travel and reinforced my passion for competitive sports. This is the moment when my friendship with my teammates became a brotherhood.

Find your “why”, and enjoy the journey.

What is your why?