Two days before the Maryland women’s soccer team’s first win of the season, coach Ray Leone learned to whip and dab.
Leone and midfielders Darby Moore, Sarah Kovalchick and Emily Kift visited Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 23, to host a radio and TV show broadcast throughout the hospital.
One 7-year-old entered the studio and “acted like he ran the show,” Moore said. He immediately recognized the group and felt comfortable after introducing himself. Then, he insisted on giving the Terps, particularly Leone, a dance lesson.
The visit created a sense of togetherness for the Terps as the team develops cohesion on a roster featuring new players and a first-year coach.
“It was great to see [the children’s] energy,” Kift said. “We know they are going through battles that are super tough. It was cool to see how positive they were. A couple of kids taught us some dances, and they were very comfortable in that environment.”
Since February, Leone had been planning a trip to Children’s National Health System. So when Morgan Hall, a former Georgia soccer player who manages the Seacrest Studios at the hospital, expressed interest in hosting some of his players, Leone didn’t hesitate.
When they arrived, they received headphones and were told they would be broadcasting a live radio and TV show in Seacrest Studios. Children throughout the hospital could follow it and call in from their rooms.
The hospital also has an “open door policy,” Moore said, so any children and their parents would be able to watch the show from the studio.
“We did some DJ stuff and dancing,” Leone said. “For me, watching our Maryland girls, how they just immediately got to their level and connected with them, that was my favorite part. It really moved me to see them do that.”
During the show, some of the viewers were starstruck. A handful treated the players like celebrities. Afterward, Moore, Kift and Kovalchick passed the ball around with the children in the studio and gave out soccer balls signed by the whole team.
“For us, it’s another day of being on the soccer team,” Kovalchick said. “[But] they thought [the signed soccer ball] was the coolest thing, when it was just something we put all of our names on.”
For the players, the visit served as another attempt to create more chemistry on a team with 14 new players.
Kift, who is also on the women’s lacrosse team, joined the program in the fall. Kovalchick, a sophomore walk-on, is a new addition, too. Moore sat out as a redshirt freshman last season.
In its first game after the visit, Maryland topped William & Mary, 3-2. Regardless of whether they involve dance lessons, Moore said consistent volunteer experiences should help the Terps bond with their new teammates and build on their outcome against the Tribe.
“The more that we have those experiences off the field, the more we’ll be cohesive on the field,” Moore said. “We’ll be even more prepared having … that experience with my teammates.”