When Nick joined The College of New Jersey’s Men’s Soccer team as a freshman in 2013, he found a fast friend in Sean, a senior captain on the team. Sean’s work ethic, dedication, and team-first attitude was not unlike Nick’s own, but Sean became a role model for the freshman. Even after Sean graduated, Nick and Sean remained close friends, making the hours-long drive to meet up for a workout or surfing at 5 am in the winter months, and they even competed in a triathlon together. Motivating each other to be their most authentic and capable selves has been the foundation of their friendship, and this has carried over into the foundation of Universal Dialect.
Nick and Sean both have backgrounds in finance, but they found themselves yearning for a way to give back while incorporating their true passions. Aside from their mutual love for soccer, both Nick and Sean have taken as many opportunities as possible to adventure travel. In addition to studying abroad for more than 3 semesters and traveling to over 40 countries combined, they have bungee jumped off cliffs in Costa Rica, surfed the wild waves of Indonesia, and camped on the Great Wall of China. In thinking of how he might create a company that would allow him to integrate his passion for travel and soccer but, more importantly, give back to those in need, Nick found himself thinking back to his trip to Lima, Peru in 2008. On the final day of this soccer trip, Nick and his under-15 team finished a match against a young Peruvian team in the outskirts of Lima. The dirt field situated between rows of eroding buildings emphasized the class difference between the American team and the local Peruvian club. Immediately following the final whistle, the young players shook hands and began to exchange shirts—a common soccer ritual. Though swapping a brand-new Nike uniform for a ripped-up shirt of an opposing player felt like an unfair trade at the time, the ritual was not to be ignored.
After the Americans boarded the bus to drive back to their hotel in Miraflores, ironically the wealthiest area in Lima, Nick found himself feeling uneasy. Were they simply going to drive away, board a plane back to the U.S. and forget about the poverty that they just experienced? While the bus was warming up for departure, the Peruvian team stood a few feet away from the windows, waving at the Americans to thank them for coming to play at their local club center. It was clear to see that many of the players lacked proper footwear, clothing, and basic equipment to play.
After a silent moment rolled by, one of Nick’s teammates grabbed his soccer ball out of his bag. He stood up and made his way out of the bus and back onto the dirt playing field where the Peruvian players greeted him. Without any words, he offered up his soccer ball to one of the young players which was received with a glowing smile—the gratitude could hardly be contained. Inspired by the altruism of his teammate, Nick quickly retrieved his own soccer ball and encouraged his other teammates—who were in awe of the initial teammate’s act of selflessness—to do the same. Each of the Americans exited the bus one-by-one and handed off a ball to a player on the Peruvian team. The boys rushed off with their new gifts, their energy unparalleled, and the American kids went back onto the bus with hope in their hearts.
An old soccer ball, something so common among the American boys that one would essentially be taken for granted, brought immense joy to each of the young players in Peru. As the bus glided back through the mountains towards the hotel and eventually the airport, Nick couldn’t help but think, “What else can I do to help?”
Fast forward 10 years, to when Nick and Sean began to have similar experiences all over the world through their travels. Wherever their trips took them, Nick and Sean never missed an opportunity to play pickup soccer with local kids. It did not matter that they often could not speak the same language as the children; the game itself allowed them all to communicate without words. While these moments always provided a beautiful opportunity to connect with and engage locals, the one constant was the feeling of guilt afterwards when they realized that they would go back home and have everything they need and then some, whereas these kids had so little yet appreciated all that they did have.
Thinking back on that pivotal day in Peru, Nick and Sean realized that creating a company centered around giving would be the best way to achieve the goal of providing kids around the world with the equipment that they need to play soccer.
Enter Universal Dialect. The basis of Universal Dialect is to benefit as many children as possible through soccer-specific donations. As the world’s most beloved game, soccer allows children from all walks of life to live, play, and have fun through the universal dialect of the game. However, many kids’ families often cannot afford even the most basic necessities to play. UD’s goal is to provide kids playing soccer the materials they need to enhance their experiences and to encourage even more kids to get out onto the pitch.