Andrew Van Wagenen knows how much a pair of cleats can mean to a child.His pictures prove it.Van Wagenen, a member of the Brigham Young University men's

soccer club, spent 10 days in May with his team on a combined

soccer/service tour of Fiji. The trip provided Van Wagenen, also a

photojournalism student, with plenty of photo opportunities, one of

which came while the team held a soccer clinic for elementary school

students in the capital city, Suva.Approximately 150 children attended the clinic, where Van Wagenen

and his teammates passed out pairs of cleats to the kids, many of whom

arrived with bare feet. Some of those children were students at a

private elementary school sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of

Latter-day Saints. When the team arrived at the school for a special

assembly the following day, the children were still sporting the new

footwear.\"It was really cool to actually see them receive their first pair of cleats,\" Van Wagenen said.For the BYU soccer team, international tours have become an

almost annual event. Originally intended to enhance the viability of

the program and develop players, the trips have taken on added meaning.

While the team acknowledges the competitive benefits of international

play, the intense on-field experiences have in many ways become

secondary to the more quiet, interpersonal moments spent providing

service.\"That's ultimately what we remember and what we value most when we leave these countries,\" Van Wagenen said.Twelve years ago, Chris Watkins and Rondo Fehlberg began assessing the state of the BYU soccer program.Watkins, the head coach, and Fehlberg, then athletic director at

BYU, considered ways to grow the program and attract top LDS talent

while still complying with Title IX and the restrictions inherent with

being a nonsanctioned \"club\" sport. The worldwide nature of The Church

of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made international travel \"first

and foremost\" among the program's advantages, Watkins said.\"We have a built-in audience almost anywhere we go in the world,\" he said.So they packed their bags.The team's first international tour was to Spain, where the

Cougars had the opportunity to compete against FC Barcelona. The

following year, the team traveled to Holland. After a lack of funding

forced a one-year hiatus, BYU returned to international play with a

tour of Mexico City. Since then, the Cougars have visited Monterrey,

Mexico; Costa Rica; Mexico City (again); Santiago, Chile; and Fiji.From a competitive standpoint, international play has served the

Cougars well in preparing for each season. Watkins referred to this as

his \"selfish interest.\"It really makes our team better,\" he said. \"It makes (the players) more committed to our program.\"On its most recent trip, the team competed against three of the

top professional clubs in Fiji. The Cougars' final match was played in

a professional stadium in Suva, and although BYU lost 3-2 on a

rain-soaked field, Van Wagenen called it a \"great experience.\"\"The competition is amazing, and it's a great way to prepare us for our season,\" Van Wagenen said.\"But at the same time, as ambassadors of BYU and as church

members, we look to get heavily involved in the LDS and non-LDS

communities\"That outward focus evolved over time, according to Watkins. While

preparing for a trip to Costa Rica, Watkins received word from his

contact in that country that members of an area ward were in need of

medical supplies.Watkins then sent an e-mail to the players' parents — many of

whom were planning to accompany the team — informing them of the

request. The parents responded by gathering supplies, which were

donated to the members.\"That's kind of how it started,\" Watkins said.Since then, service has been taking up time on the itinerary.While in Fiji, the team organized two soccer clinics, including

the one in Suva. In addition to providing children with cleats,

T-shirts and jerseys, the players delivered soccer equipment to area

schools to assist in building up sports programs.\"We've been able to see the greater vision of the influence we can have,\" Van Wagenen said.According to Watkins, funding for the international tours usually

comes from donors outside the program. But for the Fiji trip, most of

the expenses were covered by the players, who aren't scholarship

athletes. When it became apparent last year that there wasn't enough

money in the budget for 2008, team members voted on whether to pay for

a trip themselves, and according to Watkins, the voting was unanimous.\"Whenever you have to sacrifice something, it makes it more worthwhile,\" said Richie Bindrup, a junior from Las Vegas.\"You do appreciate it a lot more when it's coming out of your own pocket,\" said Van Wagenen, who grew up in Holladay Utah, but attended high school in Orlando, Fla. \"I felt the same way about my mission.\"Of course, the experience wouldn't have been possible without BYU

being the beneficiary of generosity. The team came at the invitation of

the Fiji national team, which traveled to Provo last year for a match

with the Cougars. The Fiji Soccer Association provided housing and

meals for BYU's coaches and players at its academy, in addition to

granting access to buses and training grounds.An area newspaper published an article on the Cougars, and the

soccer team was even given a chance to play basketball against the Fiji

national basketball team. According to Van Wagenen, the Cougars lost,

but only by two points.\"The people there were amazing,\" he said, \"some of the nicest people I've ever met.\"Van Wagenen said the objective of these tours is to interact with

the entire community, not just members of the LDS faith. But the team

full of returned missionaries is cognizant of the influence it can have

on the church in the area.\"We get to mix our religion with our sport, which to me is the best thing,\" Bindrup said.According to Watkins, the tours present missionary opportunities,

whether it's helping to reactivate members by having the team

participate in church functions or providing tickets to soccer matches

for individuals investigating the gospel.\"We really kind of have an opportunity to represent the church,\" he said.On previous trips, team members, many of whom learned Spanish

while on their missions, have taught Sunday School classes,

participated in seminary and given fireside talks. The day after

arriving in Fiji, the players split up and attended 12 different wards,

where they spoke in sacrament meeting on Mother's Day. That evening,

they attended a youth fireside that featured a general authority.During the assembly at the LDS-affiliated elementary school, the

players spoke to students about their mission experiences. Bindrup said

the feeling there was \"indescribable.\"\"That was the best part of the trip,\" he said.According to Van Wagenen, the team was \"well-received\" by local

church members, who showed up to greet the players upon their arrival.

During the elementary school assembly, the children presented a program

where they sang hymns and the Fiji national anthem.During the team's final match, the Cougars had a cheering section

made up of local church members from Suva. Van Wagenen described the

support as \"amazing.\"It all added up to an experience Van Wagenen ranks as one of the most memorable of his playing career.\"It's the thing I look forward to every year,\" he said.