By JAN PERALA
For the Star Beacon
Four Geneva High School soccer players took a trip across the pond this summer and although their dream trip to Scotland was technically for kicks as they competed at the prestigious Loch Lomond International Youth Soccer Festival, the boys also soaked up the culture and turned the trip into a multifaceted learning experience.
Josh Swanson, twins Chad and Ryan Weisbarth and Tyler Hunt, all juniors at GHS and members of the Claymores Club Soccer Team joined a contingent of 17 boys and two girls on the competitive, cultural and culinary odyssey.
For the Claymores team members, the Scotland trip represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which for most, included an array of first experiences. Some team members boarded an airplane for the first time and most collected stamps on their first passport. Most
also had their first taste of traditional Scottish cuisine.
“While we were there, we were told to try haggis,” Chad Wiesbarth said. “I was first to try it. It was actually very good.”
Haggis is Scotland’s best-known regional dish and is a sort of pudding containing sheep’s heart and liver mixed with onion, oatmeal and spices and served in a sausage casing. Haggis is traditionally served with “neeps and tatties” (turnips and potatoes).
“Their chocolate is the way to go,” Josh Swanson said. “They use real sugar, not corn syrup.
“We visited castles in Sterling and Edinburgh. I was amazed by the construction of them since they were built of stone so long ago. Inside the castles, there was amazing woodwork, dating back to the 1500s. They have preserved their history well, and the castles tell the story with all of the memorabilia — everything from swords and armor to sculptures, paintings and hand woven tapestries dating back to the 1400s.”
The action on the field was memorable, too.
“The competition was fierce in our tournament games,” Swanson said. “They really take soccer seriously over there. We played Celtics boys club for our first match. It was a 2-1 victory!! The rest of our matches, we lost, but the scores were very close. We took pride in the fact that we were competitive. We will never forget the day that we beat Celtics Boys Club, as they are one of the best. It was the experience of a lifetime!”
The experience of a lifetime also came with a price tag which required a series of fundraisers to make the trip a reality.
“We started raising money for the trip in October of 2009,” the twins mom, Denise Weisbarth, who organized the fundraising efforts, said. “The kids hosted a spaghetti dinner, raffled off an iPad 2 and and iPOD Touch and sold everything from Christmas wreaths to chocolates to defray the costs of the trip.”
“Our coach, Mr. Duncan, is from Scotland and I hope that we made him proud,” Swanson said. “I hope he understands how much this trip meant to all of us players. We want to say, ‘Thanks, Coach!’ and thanks to all of the parents, relatives and friends who supported all of our fundraising so that we could go.
“And thanks to our sponsors, we looked professional in all of our new gear.”
Josh is the son of Mike and Elsie Swanson.
Tyler is the son of Brad and Julie Hunt and the twins are the sons of Ken and Denise Weisbarth.
Perala is a freelance writer from Geneva.
Click here to subscribe to The Star Beacon print edition.
Click here to subscribe to The Star Beacon replica edition.