Gaby Avina, 12, is in her second season playing soccer in her neighborhood CPAC program.
“When I started I barely knew how to kick a ball,” she said. “I didn’t do anything right. But I felt a positive vibe. And now I feel like I’ve know everybody forever.”
She and her teammates have an opportunity to compete in an international tournament in Canada during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is scheduled for June 6-July 5 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
“Going to Canada is a really big honor,” said Sarai Jauregui, 11. “To be the only team from the state of Nevada is an even bigger honor and opportunity.”
The team knows it faces many challenges in getting there, but coach and program founder Ian Hill has an idea.
At a press conference Wednesday at the Carson City Community Center, he announced he will be attempt to break the world record for speaking the longest amount of time without stopping as a fundraiser for the trip.
“I want to prove to these kids that all things are possible,” Hill said.
He plans to speak for 48 continuous hours March 12-13 at the Brewery Arts Center, 449 W. King St.
The motivational speaker is asking for pledges for each hour he speaks.
“The funny thing is, no one has said they don’t think I can do this,” he said. “Everyone says, ‘Oh, 48 hours, that sounds about right. If anybody can do it, you can.’”
Hill started the soccer program at Park Terrace next to Empire Elementary School with his wife Gina Lopez Hill, who grew up in the neighborhood, which is predominantly Latino. However, the organization is open to all girls 6-18 and draws participants from across town.
While the girls learn the fundamentals of the game and play in weekly competitions, Hill said, the purpose of the league goes beyond that.
“What we’re really doing is building leaders,” Hill said. “We focus on striving for excellence in all that we do and let winning and losing take care of itself. We measure our success as each athlete grows as a leader in her home, her school, and in her community, as well as having success on the field of play.”
A proclamation from Gov. Brian Sandoval declared Wednesday as CPAC Soccer Program — Leadership, Scholarship and Champion Day.
It read, in part, “CPAC is laying the foundation for young ladies to reach their full potential and achieve the highest levels in life.”
Mayor Bob Crowell congratulated the girls.
“I want to tell you how proud I am of you and your parents for your dedication to athleticism and excellence and making a better life here in Carson City,” Crowell said. “Take a message of hope with you from Carson City. We are all in this world together.”
In order to take about 80 girls to the Presidents Invitational Cup in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, — just outside of Edmonton — in June, Hill said the program will have to raise about $90,000.
He’s also working with immigration lawyers to iron out the logistics of crossing the border into Canada and back into the United States with some players who do not have legal status.
Hill’s confident they will overcome the hurdles, as they have all along the way.
He said when the program started, there was no bathroom in the park. The program rented a portable restroom.
There were no soccer goals at the park either, so he formed a partnership with the Carson City School District to provide them.
“Every time I tell them we’ll find a way and we do, they’re confidence grows,” Hill said. “They are starting to believe that anything is possible.”