Do you know the way to San Jose?
2012 Spencer grad Kyleigh Hebert recently traveled to Costa Rica’s capital city to play basketball and lend a hand to those in need
(Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Stout Athletics Department)
By Paul Lecker
SPENCER — Kyleigh Hebert recently returned home to Spencer from a 12-day trip to Costa Rica that allowed her to show off her basketball skills as well as make some new friends and take in an entirely different culture.
Hebert, a 2012 graduate of Spencer High School and soon-to-be senior on the University of Wisconsin-Stout women’s basketball team, was among a group of NCAA Division II and Division III players chosen to represent Beyond Sports in Costa Rica.
Beyond Sports is an organization that started a sports program three years ago to give college athletes a chance to face international competition and to help the youth of Costa Rica through service work.
Hebert, who has averaged 9 points per game and led UW-Stout in assists the past two years, said the trip was invaluable.
“It was such a new experience, and it brought a lot of joy in playing basketball again,” Hebert said. “Not that it hasn’t been enjoyable, but having such an awesome experience makes you very excited for the game.”
Hebert was able to enjoy the excursion with a Stout teammate, junior Jenna Goldsmith. A familiar face along for the trip made it that much more enjoyable.
“Having Jenna there, to share it together, brought us a lot closer, and we are excited to build on this together,” Hebert said of Goldsmith, who is from Minnesota. “It was a culture shock, and it was nice to have someone to talk to about everything.”
The group of players from across the United States was selected based on all-conference awards, individual achievements, and nominations from college coaches to represent women’s college basketball abroad.
Hebert said the team had a couple of practices before playing three games against Costa Rica’s U20, U21, and U23 national teams. Costa Rica’s eventual national team that will compete for a spot in the next Olympics will be chosen from those three teams later this year.
“They play a different style for sure,” said Hebert, an applied science major at Stout. “They are pretty crafty with the ball and a do a lot of different things around the basket. They use a lot of spin on their shots underneath.
“I felt I did pretty well. The first game was definitely the best, but I think I played pretty well in all the games.”
Aside from basketball, the team also ran two basketball clinics for Costa Rican youth in San Jose, the country’s capital and home of nearly 80 percent of its population.
“We ran two clinics, one for Special Olympics and one in a very poor area of San Jose,” Hebert said. “Then we spent two or three days at the beach, which was about two hours away, and came back and left for the rain forest for a day and went zip lining and to a volcano hot springs. It was pretty awesome.”