MAPLEWOOD, NJ – An amazing opportunity for local softball players to travel to Italy to play ball and experience the culture there has been offered to a group of local girls, thanks to Columbia High School varsity softball coach Lou Cicenia.
Through an organization called America’s Team, in association with the American Council for International Studies, Cicenia will recruit a team consisting of student-athletes from the local area to travel to Rome, Florence and Milan next summer.
TAP: How did you get involved with America's Team?
Lou Cicenia: Back in April, Brigham Joy from America's Team called me to see if I would recruit and coach a high school team headed for Italy in July 2014. Brig told me he was impressed with what one of my players wrote about me on a softball recruiting service for college written by one of my athletes. After checking my references, I was offered the position but only with the understanding that I was recruiting players based on character and not ability. He agreed and I am honored to make this available to the players at Columbia HS that I coach, along with the addition of a few others players from local high schools that we have become friendly with over the years of high school play.
TAP: Will the team be holding any fund-raising events?
LC: The team will be holding many fundraisers throughout the year to offset the $4000 expense to participate (airfare, meals, lodging, local transport, tour guide/interpreter expenses, and uniforms). Understanding that this trip is a once in a lifetime experience- I felt it was important as their coach to make this affordable to ALL of my players. This should be an INCLUSIVE opportunity and not an EXCLUSIVE one. Therefore, in August, I implemented a new, popular fundraising idea called "crowd funding" (which is a collective effort by individuals to raise funds in the community over the internet). Our internet address is: www.gofundme.com/atasteofitaly . To date, we have raise $2500 in one month. Our goal is to reach the $60,000 mark so that this trip would essentially be free. Obviously, we would appreciate any contributions our community members could afford to assist us- regardless of amount. After all, even the $5 amounts add up and are truly appreciated!
The Roman Gourmet has also agreed to assist us in September by donating 10% of their proceeds from Monday, September 23rd- Thursday, September 26th. Growing up in town, I have always known Vinnie and his family at the Roman Gourmet to be a wonderful asset to our community and we are grateful to have their support in making our girls more well-rounded for life from this experience.
Local softball pitching coach- Cindy Cavallo has also agreed to hold a pitching clinic for softball players in elementary and middle school on a date to be announced. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to our fund to assist our athletes gain international experience.
There will be more events to raise money in the upcoming months to assist our players and families involved.
TAP: How do you expect the competition in Italy to measure up to your New Jersey girls?
LC: Each opponent we face will be a doubleheader. The first one being played competitively and the second allowing us to integrate the two teams and play it as a good-will scrimmage. As a coach, you teach your players to never underestimate their opponent because anyone can win on any given day- regardless of talent. The Italian teams we will be facing have players who do match up well against our own local players, so I feel each game will be competitive and expose our players to an international style of play that may differ from our own. Regardless of win or lose, its the educational and athletic experience we are focusing on. How many kids can say they wore the red, white and blue with USA across their jersey's in another country. What a wonderful sense of patriotism each student will leave with.