While most former college athletes only dream of a second chance to compete in their sport, Sarah Kaufman has made it a reality.
Having played only three years of soccer
at Huntington University, Kaufman graduated in 2008 as the all-time leading scorer of the women’s soccer program. While she would have loved to extend her playing career professionally, she did the next best thing by joining the Forester coaching ranks upon graduation. Little did she know this continued involvement with the HU program would result in a second chance to play organized soccer.
“I’ve played in several summer leagues since graduation but it didn’t compare to this experience,” Kaufman said about an opportunity to play soccer in Japan. “Not only did I get to play competitive soccer again, but more importantly, I had the chance to share my faith while doing so.”
Last winter head coach Ryan Burgher was approached by the director of Southern California Seahorses — a ministry devoted to sharing the gospel through the environment of soccer — about taking a team to Japan to help plant a long-term sports ministry center. It didn’t take Burgher, a former player for a Seahorse team, long to commit to coaching the team. Kaufman quickly followed suit, jumping at the chance to lace up her cleats again.
Kaufman, along with Burgher and three current HU players, Kristin Calvert, Michelle Hawthorne and April Reyes, were part of a team that spent nearly two weeks in Iwakuni and Osaka this past summer.
After a two-day training camp in California, the team headed to Japan where they played four games against local club, high school and college teams. They also participated in a Futsal tournament — a short-sided 6-on-6 tournament played on smaller fields with smaller goals — and hosted several camps and clinics.
The team’s strong presence and positive influence in the community paved the way for Seahorse ministries to make connections that would have otherwise been difficult to make as they look to turn their dreams of a sports ministry center into a reality.
“I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to play soccer again, and the fact that it was in Japan was just amazing,” Kaufman said about this once-in-a-lifetime experience. “Also, to be a part of a new ministry in Japan was an experience that I am grateful to have had.”