Student-Athlete Takes Flag Football to Kenya

With another year of Kalamazoo College football camp beginning, student-athlete Adam Stapleton ’25 is proudly reflecting on a summer that included some international volunteerism through his sport.

Stapleton, a business major in his academic life and a linebacker for the Hornets in athletics, introduced children in Kenya to flag football by visiting a rural, ministry-based school in the town of Nyahururu through the Pan African Christian Exchange (PACE).

The idea was to help the children experience some diversity in their physical education classes in coordination with a two-week service trip he shared with his family, including his dad—who works as a pastor—his mom and his brother.

“Usually, the students would only be playing soccer, and the school wanted them to have a more enriching experience in general,” Stapleton said. “I feel like football as a game teaches a lot of life skills outside of just athleticism. There’s teamwork because you have to be on the same page, and there’s strategy, which helped them learn to think while contributing to their growing experiences in school as a whole.”

The children, he said, were somewhat familiar with rugby, which provided some parallels along with some challenges because of slightly different rules. They had to learn, for example, that football has four downs and varied guidance as to how teams can sub players in and out of a game.

Regardless, the classes embraced the experience, making Stapleton’s job feel less like a Hail Mary and more like an inevitable run to pay dirt.

“I could just see their joy, especially when I told them we would leave all the materials there so they could play on their own,” Stapleton said. “They don’t have a lot of what we do, but they were so much happier than we usually are. The whole experience helped me see that attitude is what makes you happy.”

Stapleton added that he and his brother also taught chess to the students. In fact, some of the children picked it up so quickly that they nearly beat the duo by the time they left. The whole experience leaves Stapleton with no doubt that he would like to return to Kenya one day, in addition to studying abroad in Madrid or Costa Rica before he leaves K.

“This wasn’t so much about my K-Plan, but it definitely fit with the K experience,” Stapleton said. “It was about putting myself out there to try new things. It also fit for me as a business major. I sat in on one of their business classes and tried to contribute some things about my classes. I want to go back again, and in my professional life, I think this experience will help me interact more with diverse people and reach others different from me. I’m glad I went because I didn’t expect it to be anything like it was. Going there and seeing the joy on the kids’ faces while teaching them something new and experiencing a new place was an awesome opportunity.”

Adam Stapleton Teaching Flag Football in Kenya
Student-athlete Adam Stapleton introduced children in Kenya to flag football this summer, diversifying their physical education classes.