The FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off in the early part of June, when the United States Women’s National Team defeated Thailand in an absolute rout, 13-0.
Sitting in the front row for the contest was Ricardo eighth grader Ella Baumgardt, who made the trip to Paris, France to do some soccer training of her own.
Ella was one of four area girls who traveled to the European city of lights to play soccer against other teenagers like her in friendly competitions, as well as to receive training from professional international coaches, as a part of a travel program with WorldStrides soccer tours.
“It was really different but it was really cool,” Ella said. “Everybody was speaking a different language, and so many things over there are so much different.”
Ella, alongside Caitlin Moreno, Gabriella N. Garcia and Iliana Lee Hinojosa, all arrived in Paris on June 9 and, following orientation, went straight to the field to begin practice with other players from South Texas.
“There were two girls from the Rio Grande Valley, four girls from San Antonio and two girls from Victoria plus our girls, which made the team,” Ella’s mother Robyn Baumgardt said. “And so it was the South Texas group that went and played against three different French teams over there.”
Ella said having only two practices under the team’s belt before they could play their games was “a little hard to get used to” but the team did well and “it was a lot fun.”
“It took a while for us to get used to the way they were training because (the trainers’) methods and everything were different. They’re not what we’re used to. But it was kind of similar to how we were trained down here, so we eventually got it.”
“They also had a professional soccer coach work with them and train them one day, and that was cool,” Robyn added.
Ella also said it was “really cool” to try to communicate with people who speak another language, and to experience the culture of France.
“After the games, we would get together and try and communicate, and every time we understood one another everybody would get really excited,” she said.
The girls also had the opportunity to visit and tour the Stade de France, one of the country’s major stadiums.
The girls were allowed to walk inside the locker room and the training rooms, and concluded their tour by running through the players’ tunnel to applause and music.
“That was pretty cool,” Ella said. “I really liked it.”
The girls then had the opportunity to watch the USWNT dominate Thailand in the first world cup contest for the U.S.
“It was really amazing,” Ella said. “We were really close to them so we could see a lot of things that happened.”
The girls were allowed to tour and visit some of France’s most famous attractions, including the Eiffel Tower.
Ella said she learned a lot about the culture of France, but also learned a lot on the soccer field, including how to be a little more aggressive in her own playing style.
In the end, Ella said she had one thing to say to other girls who could be where she was some time in the future.
“If other girls have the opportunity to travel or try new things, they should,” Ella said. “Because it’s really awesome and a ton of fun.”
The Baumgardts thanked Henry and Sylvia Molina from Domino’s Pizza, Juan and Lordes Delgado from Water Tree in Kingsville, Spice Station in Kingsville and friends and family for helping to contribute funds to allow Ella to go to Paris.