Hoosier's life changes in Coach for College



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Derrick Morgan (bottom right) traveled to Vietnam this past summer in a program called Coach for College (CFC). CFC use American athletes to help promote the importance of academics in the lives of children between the ages of 11 and 14. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Derrick Morgan ran four years of track and field in cream and crimson before earning his bachelor’s degree in sports management.

But to the IU graduate it was the red that he wore in Vietnam that made the 
biggest difference.

“Red Bull,” Morgan said. “That’s what our team name was.”

Morgan, who graduated from North Central High School in Indianapolis, traveled to Vietnam summer of 2015 in a program named Coach for College.

Returning just before school started in mid-August, Morgan spent nearly a month overseas, teaching and coaching children in disadvantaged environments.

“It felt good,” Morgan said. “Getting to know these kids and other athletes in such a short amount of time was great.”

CFC, established in 2007, focuses on two groups of youth: middle school-aged children in underprivileged environments and collegiate student-athletes.

Stationed primarily in Vietnam, CFC uses the popularity of sports to promote the importance of academics in the lives of children between the ages of 11 and 14, using American athletes who have proven excellence in both fields.

“We want to keep the kids involved in school,” said Parker Goyer, a Duke University graduate and the executive director and creator of CFC. “Reducing the number of kids who drop out is the main goal.”

In Vietnam, nearly one million students graduate from high schools each year, but one exit standardized test determines graduation and entry into college, Goyer said.

Only 70 to 80 percent of graduating students pass the standardized test, leaving 20 to 30 percent of students dropping out of school and not pursuing collegiate degrees.

***

Goyer, who studied psychology as an undergraduate and played Division I tennis for Duke, wanted to make a difference in developing countries.

“As student-athletes, we really don’t have that opportunity to get out and make a difference in fields of service,” Goyer said. “With most sports being a year-round focus, studying abroad is out of the question as well.”

To combat her busy schedule, Goyer individually researched opportunities to get involved in the community.

“I was feeling so two-dimensional, between tennis and school,” Goyer said. “I needed to branch out, so I began studying global health and foreign economy and education to do well in my other endeavors. I found it was beneficial for myself, but I wanted to help other student-athletes as well.”

After four years of tennis at Duke and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Goyer founded CFC in fall 2007, after reaching out to her university’s provost, Peter Lange, who granted the program $120,000.

Lange then contacted the University of North Carolina, who also donated a grant to the cause.

“We had Duke and North Carolina reporters write to provosts around the nation, and universities donating money to the cause, as well as volunteer student-athletes,” Goyer said. “We now have over 30 universities involved through funding and volunteers.”

Having visited Vietnam 17 times, Goyer worked on the ground for CFC through 2009, before the program gathered additional staff members to hold spots overseas and assist in the process of preparing for each summer.

In addition to the challenges of fundraising and gathering an adequate number of volunteers, the CFC also needs to provide the correct equipment to teach and coach the Vietnamese students for three weeks.

“There was one occasion where we ordered shoes from Nike for the kids,” Goyer said. “Well, they shipped them here to the U.S., so we had to ship them back to Vietnam. Then the kids treated them more like trophies than shoes because they’re usually barefoot.”

Though the Vietnamese coaches who work with the American student-athletes can speak English, the children can’t, so it is the CFC’s responsibility to translate their textbooks and confirm that the material is within the curriculum of Vietnam’s 
education system.

Vietnam remains the only country where the CFC is stationed, but Goyer said the program hopes to expand, targeting the Philippines and Cambodia next.

Now a graduate of Oxford University and Harvard University, Goyer possesses a doctorate in psychology.

“In college, they always tell you to apply your knowledge,” Goyer said. “This is the way that I can make a difference in the world.”

***

Morgan landed in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, picked up a bus at the city airport and rode to the camp where he would spend three weeks with 100 Vietnamese children.

“It was weird because when I first arrived, everyone was breaking their necks staring at me because they’d never seen a black person before,” Morgan said. “It was a little annoying at first because everyone wanted a picture taken with me, but I got used to it.”

Morgan noticed that many of the kids didn’t have shoes but were running on the rocky grounds where their soccer fields and basketball courts were located at the camp.

So he decided to try it.

“I couldn’t keep up with them,” Morgan said. “Just being in that environment and being around those kids really taught me not to take things for granted, like my shoes, or my car or Qdoba.”

Of the 100 Vietnamese children in Morgan’s camp, the IU graduate worked with 15 on his Red Bull team, coaching them through sports and teaching them in the classroom.

“They could have short conversations in English by the end of the three weeks,” Morgan said. “I can even have some small talk in Vietnamese now.”

After working with the children in Vietnam for three weeks, Morgan traveled to the cities of Tokyo and Hong Kong for two weeks to relax before coming back home, he said.

Morgan is pursuing a degree in sports law at the McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis in hopes of becoming an athletic director.

“This was the last thing I’ll do as an athlete,” Morgan said. “I have friends here who run professionally, and they encourage me to start running again, but I think I’m going to hang up the cleats for good.”

In the end, Morgan said the kids taught him more than he taught them and that the program changed his life.

“It really changed my life forever,” Morgan said. “Seeing the kids cry when we left and knowing the impact I had on their lives and could have on others’ lives, then realizing, later, the impact that they had on my life. I plan on visiting again. I’d definitely go back.”

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