Many young athletes aspire to travel the globe playing their favorite sports, but one Dawson County High School sophomore is getting the chance to do just that.
Sydney McGinnis, who has been playing softball since age 9, will be traveling with America's Team to Italy as the group competes against and builds relations with softball teams from other countries.
According to its website, America's Team "provides student-athletes with high integrity and strong character opportunities to compete in international programs as an ambassador for their school, community and our great country."
"Before this year, I had no idea programs like this existed," said McGinnis, a 15-year-old right fielder. "I never imagined something like this would actually happen.
"I'm very surprised I was one of the ones they asked to come out and play with them."
Programs such as America's Team are designed to find students with potential through recruitment forums and camps in order to train them for possible positions on Olympic teams.
"They found me through my profile on the [National Club Softball Association] site," McGinnis said. "I went to softball camp called Higher Ground and they seem to find a lot of girls through camps."
America's Team is dedicated to competition and experiences designed to strengthen not only athletic ambitions but open participants' eyes to a new people and culture.
"I'm really looking forward to this, as it's my first time out of the country," McGinnis said. "I'm really looking forward to meeting people from different countries and building relationships."
Teams are scheduled to compete in a series of softball games designed to promote and enhance the sport and promote goodwill between American and foreign student-athletes.
The cost for each player is about $4,000 and, in order to comply with NCAA rules, participants must raise their own funds. The group will be led by Christine Ambrosi, a 2000 Olympic softball gold medalist.
"I'm definitely looking forward to getting advice from [Ambrosi]," McGinnis said. "She's made it all the way, so it'll definitely be a learning experience for me. I think I can learn a lot from someone who has gone so far."
McGinnis will leave July 7 and return eight days later, playing doubleheaders each day. The teams will play one game with their own country before merging to form two combined teams for the next.
McGinnis' mother Wendy, who will accompany her to Italy, is proud of her daughter.
"This has all been a whirlwind for us," she said. "It's all happened so suddenly. I'm very excited for her."