When a high school basketball player from Nauset chose to stay with his team for a championship game during school vacation week instead of traveling to Europe with his family, head coach Leo P. Miller made up for it by taking the varsity squad across the pond. Little did he know that would become the start of Cape Cod Sports Ambassadors.
Now in its 50th year, the CCSA has been organizing international exchange trips since that fateful 1968 sojourn and this week welcomes young athletes from Belgium. During their time on Cape Cod the group will stay with area host families, visit historic sites, and, of course, play some basketball.
“It's really a cultural exchange. Basketball is like an icebreaker,” said Beverly Fuller of Orleans, who helms CCSA with her husband Jon. “[Leo] saw how important it was for kids to get out of their comfort zones and into the world.”
Fuller explained that the CCSA was incorporated in 1982 in order to allow it to raise funds for the trips, primarily with Belgium, with whom the CCSA has developed a strong bond.
“We've been back and forth to Kortrijk in an exchange for more than 30 years,” said Fuller.
The latest group arrives March 30, with an international 3-on-3 slated for April 5 at Nauset Middle School. Michael Amerault of Orleans has traveled with CCSA and now, as a board member, hosts visiting students as a way of carrying on the work of the CCSA.
“Being down here, there weren't aspirations to look beyond Boston,” Amerault said. “Playing basketball at Nauset and for Jon Fuller at the middle school, he made all of his players aware that this was an option. Through his setup of the operation, it opened my eyes. From there it's gotten me to go on other trips to Europe, something that really wasn't tangible before.”
Amerault said he has since hosted more than 25 kids, and while basketball is a highlight, the real purpose of the trips is making connections between cultures.
“Basketball is just a common bond,” he said. “The whole cultural exchange is what it's all about.”
“It's a fabulous experience and a lot of these kids have made lifelong friendships,” said Fuller. “We've been to Copenhagen, Finland, Estonia. The kids bring back great memories from these trips.”
The Ambassadors Showdown 3-on-3 basketball tournament will be held April 5 beginning at 5 p.m. at Nauset Middle School in Orleans. For more information visit capecodsportsambassadors.org.