The kids move the ball down the field, working together to make a goal. But this isn’t your typical competitive youth soccer team: It’s a mix of boys, girls, young athletes, children with special needs, and those who have never played a sport—and they’re all having the time of their lives. They’re part of the Soccer Unity Project (SUP), the nonprofit brainchild of two Flexible Doctor of Physical Therapy (Flex DPT) students on the San Marcos campus, Spencer Lalk and Patrick Swank.
“We want to create a positive, inclusive atmosphere where everyone can truly succeed,” says Lalk. He founded SUP in 2014 after working as a soccer coach at a Montessori school and seeing the potential for something greater. With his friend and classmate Swank, he formed the program, which unites elementary school kids of all backgrounds in after school soccer programs and encourages them to participate regularly in community service projects. At one recent event, SUP gave the kids the opportunity to thank local senior citizens for paving the path for their future success by entertaining them at the facility with games and prizes.
It’s a mission that jibes with the way the pair also approaches physical therapy. “I became fascinated with this field as an undergrad,” explains Swank. “I love that it allows me to help people improve their lives.” Both men credit the Flex DPT program with giving them the opportunity to pursue both of their passions at once. They’re not alone. “Every student has commitments outside of school,” says Swank. “Learning to balance our work now will help us lead successful careers as physical therapists.”
Although the two haven’t decided what post-graduation life will look like quite yet, they’re confident that SUP will remain a constant in their lives. “It’s a passion for us,” says Lalk. “The possibilities for growth are endless.”