Two Ryan student athletes recently returned from a sports leadership camp experience in Costa Rica.

Jasmine Villerreal and Alicen Williams, both students at Ryan High School, spent 10 days at the camp that is a sports leadership experience for high school female athletes.

Former Ryan athlete, Whittany Spangler, was also part of the select group of athletes chosen to participate in this elite camp.

The leadership camp is operated by Beyond Sports and was founded by two former college athletes that were inspired by the power of cross-cultural understanding through sports and wanted to create opportunities for student athletes to travel abroad and create meaningful connections and unique experiences through their sport.

Since 2010 the camp has hosted over 3,000 athletes and the facility is located within walking distance to a beach.

The Girls Leadership Academy for Service and Sport (GLASS) is the event Villerreal and Williams attended. A team of current college athletes served as mentors for the group of girls on a campus that has been developed in Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica.

Each session of the camp consists of 18 or less students and each attendee fills out an application that includes personal information, the sports they participate in and essay questions.

Based on the applications, the girls are chosen to participate at their expense in the camp. Financial assistance is available for participants.

Williams and Spangler were slated to attend last summer but the camp was canceled because of COVID-19 and this year, Villerreal decided to try and join her friends for the experience.

“I really wanted to try something new and learn more about leadership and service while being in another country,” Williams said about this unique opportunity.

Villerreal was also excited to attend this camp because of its location out of the United States.

“Stepping out of my comfort zone and traveling out of the country by myself was a big factor for me wanting to go,” Villerreal noted. “Meeting a bunch of new girls from all over was also a factor for me.”

Both girls were elated to find out they were accepted to the camp that has only a few sessions each summer.

“I was really nervous but super excited,” noted Villerreal. “I actually started packing the day I found out because I was so excited.”

Williams echoed Villerreal’s comment about finding out she had been accepted. “I was super excited to get the opportunity to go have fun and learn so much with other amazing girls.”

Each day’s activities began with a workout and then time with their appointed mentor. After breakfast the group went on an excursion.

After lunch and a short amount of free time, the girls had another workout and then conducted sports clinics in the community giving them opportunities to interact with the culture.

Following dinner, the girls engaged in a leadership development workshop each evening.

Williams and Villerreal did not have any trouble sharing the benefits from the experience.

“The camp showed me different aspects of my life I never could have seen by myself,” Villerreal explained. “Trying to be a leader is hard especially having that mindset that you have to be perfect. People tend to lose sight of who they really are when trying to be that perfect.”

“For me the greatest benefit of the week was getting to learn more leadership skills that help with serving others,” said Williams.

No doubt the camp enhanced the opportunities that await the pair of Cowgirls in the upcoming sports seasons.

READY TO BOARD – Ryan’s Jasmine Villerreal (left) and Alicen Williams (center) are pictured with former Ryan athlete Whittany Spangler of Moss getting ready to board a plane to Costa Rica to spend 10 days at a sports leadership camp. (Photo provided)

Villerreal is a four-sport athlete at Ryan participating in fast-pitch softball, cross country, basketball and track.

“I carried a lot of weight on my shoulders due to lack of confidence this past year,” Villerreal said. “I realized you can’t do everything by yourself and people are going to have opinions.”

“I want to come into the year more confident and having fun,” Villerreal added. “Having fun and doing whatever you enjoy doing can change your whole perspective.”

Williams, who will be a senior for the Cowgirl cross country, basketball and track teams this coming school year came away with focus in regard to the upcoming seasons.

“I think it will help me to be a better leader for our team as well as being a good teammate,” Williams commented.

Both girls obviously took away memories from the experience that will last a lifetime.

“My greatest memory was getting to help out with the CEPIA kids,” Williams said, “I loved getting to play soccer and kickball with them and it was also so cool to see the culture down there and how others live.”

CEPIA is a non-profit organization that promotes culture and educational opportunities for the kids in Costa Rica.

Villerreal mentioned the opportunity to work with the kids but she also talked about relationships built and the opportunities to serve.

“Getting to meet everyone and becoming loser and seeing how fast e built those connections in just 10 days was amazing,” Villerreal said. “Doing services such as dog walking, environmental clean ups and helping with the kids was a great memory.”

Williams urged anyone to try to attend the camp.

“For any girl who would like to experience it, I would definitely say to go for it because I loved it such much and learned so many thing while making connections,” Williams said.

From al the comments of Williams and Villerreal, it is evident that the mission statement of GLASS – empowering the next generation of female leadership through sports, service and global engagement – was accomplished and will make a difference in their experiences in the upcoming sports seasons.