Former soccer star enlists in Peace Corps


Courtesy of Eric Pogue

Former Oakland soccer player Travis Harrington will work with the Peace Corps in Togo, Africa for the next two years.

Michael Pearce, Sports Editor

Former Oakland men’s soccer star Travis Harrington will be spending the next two years in Togo, Africa, working for the Peace Corps. While in Togo, he will be teaching children English through speaking French in a middle school, while also implementing gender equality practices.

While in Togo, Harrington has no cell phone and has to adapt to a completely different lifestyle. Despite being 5,500 miles from home, Harrington is already seeing similarities in his new surroundings.

“The culture is different — but it also reminds me that different isn’t always bad,” he said. “We are all humans and we may do things differently, but we are all working toward the same goal: trying to make it another 24 hours with whichever resources that are at our disposal. I already feel humbled but excited for the work that I will be doing with the community.”

As a player under Head Coach Eric Pogue, Harrington and his team participated in regular community service. Pogue, who has been a coach at Oakland for 18 years, tries to instill more than just soccer knowledge into his athletes.

“As a college coach … we are obviously judged on wins and losses and championships,” Pogue said. “It is seeing young men, like Travis, that I’ve had the honor of coaching and mentoring, go out and impact the world by becoming amazing husbands, fathers, leaders, mentors, coaches and world changers, that really is what fills my heart. We, as coaches, are privileged to teach life through sports, which is really a blessing.”

Pogue is a coach who keeps in contact with his players well past their time at Oakland, and Harrington is no different. The two keep in touch weekly via text messages and emails, and Pogue has encouraged Harrington to journal his time in Togo to show people in Rochester and beyond what the people of Togo go through.

“Eric Pogue has had a great impact on me as an athlete, but also as a young man,” Harrington said. “He instilled in me the idea of being more than an athlete, but what it truly means to be a student other than an athlete. He put me in positions to better my attitude and my integrity, and he most importantly allowed me to do what I love at the highest level in college at the Division 1 level on a daily basis for the last four years, which was playing soccer.”

For the first three months, Harrington will be having language and technical training sessions in a training village. He will find out his permanent village in the middle of July and do a site visit, where each volunteer stays at their permanent village for a week to meet the community. In August, Harrington will officially swear in as a Peace Corps volunteer.

“While I’m in the Peace Corps, I hope to simply implement some form of change, no matter how big or small,” he said. “Even at the lowest degree, I know that change will definitely take part in my life over these next two years. The relationships that I build will be crucial in how impactful my service will be, and I am looking forward to the grassroots approach that I will take during my service.”