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Destination Down Under: Hudson player heading to Australia

Rebecca Springer will compete next week in the Kanga Cup International Soccer Tournament along with players from eight other Southeastern states.

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


It may have been one of the easiest decisions in Rebecca Springer's life.

Stay in Pasco County this summer or go to Australia and New Zealand for two weeks?

"I leave Monday," she said.

The 16-year-old, who will be a junior at Hudson, was the lone girl's soccer player from Florida selected to play in the Kanga Cup International Soccer Tournament July 2-9 in Canberra, Australia.

"I figured it would be a good experience," said Springer, who learned she was on the team when she received a letter in January. "I doubt I'll ever go to Australia again."

She will play on a team that consists of players from eight Southeastern states and is part of a program called People to People Sports Ambassadors.

The program was founded by Dwight D. Eisenhower and has sent teams in 15 sports all over the world to compete since 1963.

Though she leaves Monday to fly to Los Angeles, Springer's trip began when she learned she had been picked for the team.

Springer doesn't know who nominated her for the team.

"I was shocked," she said.

In order to compete, Springer had to raise the $4,000 needed for plane fare and spending money, a fact that left her father, Darrell, a little skeptical.

"She said she'd like to look into it," Darrell said. "My wife and I told her, "That's fine, but we're not paying for it.' If I was going to send somebody to Australia it was going to be me and my wife (Eleanore). The interest grew as she went along. It's a little monumental if you look at it."

In an effort to raise the money, her friends and parents got involved, as did her Youth Group from church. Seven car washes and a few donations eventually helped cover the cost.

"Between the car washes and dealing with rotary clubs," Darrell said, "it's been nice to see her step up at 16 and see her grow and see her go into the community and function."

Springer will land in New Zealand where her team is scheduled to practice with professional players, coaches and trainers for five days.

After that, the team transfers to Australia for the tournament in which she'll play against at least five different international teams.

"I'm hoping she gets some benefit to help her in her sport," Darrell said.

Springer has been playing soccer since she was 5 years old. Through the years, she's also mixed in softball and is a member of Hudson's girls weightlifting team, but soccer is her first love.

"My parents, they took me to soccer when I was real young and I guess I liked it a lot and I just kept playing it," said Springer, who scored 11 goals for Hudson last season."

While in Australia, she hopes to improve from seeing how other people from other countries play the game.

She also plans on doing some sightseeing and making a few friends.

"I want to win it (the tournament) and just make as many friendships and take it all in as I can," Springer said. "All my teammates live in Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and all over the place. If I can make friendships with that many people in that many places, that would be neat."

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