Tuesday, January 20, 2009

1/21/09: Crew Goalkeeper Will Hesmer Helps Out in South Africa

Six days after winning silverware, Hesmer was winning again by being a humanitarian in South Africa. (Image via Getty Images & Denis Farrell Respectively.)

Six days after winning the MLS Cup, Will Hesmer was in South Africa helping out with an Aids awareness organization. Hesmer's day job included mainly running a soccer clinic with South African kids while doctors helped to spread awareness. The entire article by the talented Steve Sirk can be located here and some quoteables highlighting the experience are below.

Quoteable's from Will Hesmer's experience in South Africa Coaching The Kids During A Soccer Clinic: Hesmer, along with MLS pool goalkeeper Andrew Kartunen, would be off to meet with local soccer organizations for coaching clinics and youth camps. The mornings were spent with the coaches and the afternoons were spent running drills with the kids.

"With the coaches, we would discuss things such as leadership qualities, how to organize an effective practice, positional qualities, formations and things like that," Hesmer explained. "These coaches love soccer and were so passionate during these discussions. Case in point, two coaches argued vigorously over whether a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1 was the best formation. It was a lot of fun being a part of a group of people that cared so much about the game."

As the tactical argument ran its course, Hesmer chimed in with a few thoughts of his own. "My point was that no matter what formation you feel is best, ultimately the players you have - and the strengths and weaknesses of those players - dictate the formation you should play." (ala Moreno, Schelotto, and Carroll anyone for the 4-5-1)

The players themselves were as passionate as the coaches. The youngsters oozed raw talent that was in desperate need of further refinement. "The kids were very, very good players with the ball, but struggled with the tactical side," Hesmer said. "There was very little attempt to combine or defend as a team, and virtually everything was a 1-vs.-1 duel."

On The Aids Epidemic, Basically Hesmer Would Teach The Kids Soccer and During Breaks Doctors Would Talk To The Coaches and the Kids About Aids Awareness:
"The lack of education was extremely surprising, considering HIV/AIDS kills so many of their loved ones each year. I think that it's something that people need to know exists because I, for sure, was unaware that the problem was as bad as it was. I think the more education and support we can bring them, the better their communities, villages and nation will become."

Along With Helping Out, Hesmer was able to enjoy some other cool experiences in Africa. Here is an excerpt on a Safari Hesmer went on:
Hesmer couldn't believe his luck when, just as they pulled into the park, a leopard appeared in the brush, just five yards from their truck. "It was almost as if on cue," he said. "Mind you, leopards are very rare to see in the wild and, more importantly, this was an open truck with a canopy, so there was nothing but air separating you from a wild leopard that was staring directly at you. It was an incredible moment. We saw all of the big five - lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and cape buffalo - but that moment where the leopard was staring directly at us sticks out as the most exciting part of the day." Staring down a leopard is one thing, but for a guy who calls Shark Week "by far the best week on television each year," a ferocious feline was nothing but a warm up for his dream face-to-face encounter with a great white shark.

Hesmer on Shark Diving:
"After the trip was over and our work with TRIAD was done, I traveled down to Cape Town because I heard it was a 'must visit' while in South Africa," he said. "But mostly I went to Cape Town because it is home to the greatest population of great white sharks on the planet: Dyer Island, the home of shark alley. Being the shark lover that I am, I decided that it would be a good idea to schedule a day of shark diving."

Some may suggest that Frankie Hejduk goes shark diving every time he paddles his surf board in the Pacific Ocean, but Hesmer's set-up was a little more involved. He and his fellow divers were loaded into a cage that was 8 feet tall, 10 feet long, and 3 feet wide. Basically, it's about what size the packaging would be if sharks could buy humans at the grocery store.

As the cage is lowered just below the water's surface, a rope-tied tuna head floats in the water in close proximity to the cage. Seemingly out of nowhere, a one-ton killing machine silently glides its 15-foot frame across the front of the cage, mere inches from the be-snorkeled onlookers. It's at that moment that people learn that the Discovery Channel can only do so much to convey the majesty of these jagged-jawed beasts.

"The lions and leopards were cool, but nothing compared to coming face to face with a Great White," Hesmer marveled. "It was by far the coolest thing I have ever done."


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