Checking in with Tara Bilanski, Bend FC Timbers Executive Director.
Tell us a little bit about your history with WorldStrides Sports. How’d did we connect originally? Where have you traveled with us? Where are you planning to travel to next?
We were extremely luck to reconnect with Jamie Kent! As someone who has traveled a fair amount in the past with soccer teams, I was looking for a reputable travel organization to help me take BFCT teams abroad. I had just started researching the different organizations out there when Jamie reach out to tell me that he had just taken a new position at WorldStrides Sports and that he would like to partner with BFCT. The rest is history.
We have done one trip so far, but it was the trip of a lifetime with our 05 and 06 girls to the Women’s World Cup in France! Each group then tacked on another country. Our 06 girls headed to England and the 05 girls went to Belgium.
Can you share with us what an international travel experience does for your players, teams, and families?
I can tell you that our players and families still talk about our trip on a regular basis, reliving all the fun that we had and have already started planning for their next destination with WorldStrides Sports. The same groups want to go to the Women’s World Cup in Australia in 2023! The last World Cup in France in was in June and July, so I anticipate those same travel times again for 2023. Although this time we hope to make it a longer trip to really maximize our time abroad. As for the players, I really enjoyed seeing them get out of their comfort zones to try new things, play new teams, and create new memories that they would never experience here in the U.S.
What have been some of the highlights from your trips with us? Do you have a favorite destination?
For me personally, the highlight of our trip to France for the Women’s World Cup was sitting in the front row – YES, FRONT ROW – at the top of the 18 yard box for the USA v Spain match. The tickets (for a group of 90 people) were beyond my wildest dreams and I know that every single one of our players and family members were blown away by that game.
Any travel advice you can share with other clubs who might be reading this? Plan early, budget, and make sure that everyone knows what they are signing up for. This is not a personal trip, rather it is an experience of traveling with a team and being a member of a team, so make sure parents and siblings are understanding of this concept up front.
Why would you recommend international travel for other clubs and programs?
In my experience, the travel really endeared the club members to BFCT. We got to know each other, experience fun and sometimes trying time, but at the end of the trip I know that everyone was appreciate of BFCT pulling this trip together for them.
Bend FC Timbers is the largest youth soccer organization in Central Oregon with over 3,000 players on 27 competitive teams, plus recreational programs, and is a Portland Timbers partner.