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Kicking for Kids: Maplewood Soccer Coach Takes Aim at Juggling Feat

Nathan Davies is training to make history and benefit underprivileged children in African country.

Written By Andrew Magnotta

A Maplewood soccer coach is training to be the first person to juggle a soccer ball across an entire county.

Nathan Davies, who has been coaching soccer in Maplewood since 2004, will attempt his feat of endurance in February (Lesotho summer) to raise money for the disenfranchised children of Lesotho, a mountainous country that is completely surrounded by South Africa.

Davies first went to Lesotho in 2009 to teach and play soccer for non-profit organization Kick4Life. After returning, he wanted to stay involved with the charity and continue helping.

In June 2012, he participated in Millburn’s annual Run for the Red 5K race for Kick4Life, but not running like everyone else. Davies wanted to do something different, so he ran the entire 5K while juggling a soccer ball (meaning to keep it in the air using just his feet).

“After I finished [the Millburn 5K] I didn’t really feel challenged enough,” Davies said, “so I wanted to do something further. We tried to get into the New York Marathon, but they refused. They said it would be too dangerous for the other participants.”

Davies said he thought again about his trip to Lesotho and how he wanted to help the masses of homeless children in the country. This past February, he asked Kick4Life co-founder Pete Fleming what he thought of the idea of juggling across the country. Fleming liked it and sought permission from the Lesotho government. Once granted, Davies ramped up his usual fitness routine to all out training regimen.

Davies finished that first Millburn 5K race (about 3.1 miles) in one hour and 17 minutes. Since dedicating himself to Kick Across Lesotho, he said, he has reduced his mile time while juggling to just 22 minutes per mile, an improvement of over two minutes per mile.

“When I’m out in Lesotho,” said Davies, “I’m going to be juggling for about 18 miles a day. It’s probably going to take me about seven and a half hours a day.”

The trek measures about 208 miles from Sani Pass on the eastern border of Lesotho to the country’s capital, Maseru, on its western border. It will take 12 days to complete.

Davies has never run a marathon, but he has been carefully training to prepare for the Kick Across Lesotho, gradually increasing his mileage every few weeks until he gets to 18 miles. Every six miles, Davies will stop to eat. He said he will have to consume approximately 5,000 calories per day to maintain his energy.

A vegan, Davies will eat mostly shakes high in fruit, carbs and protein, which he gets from a supplement. Davies and his party will be staying with host families who live near the road.

Lesotho is a mountainous country and Davies will start his trek at around 3,500 feet above sea level.

“Going up the hill is no problem,” Davies said. “Going down the hill is more difficult. It’s more of a mind thing, you have to be a lot more focused and slow down a little bit when you go down the hills.

"If I drop the ball,” he added, “I just flick it on up and keep on going.”

With a population of 2.5 million people, Lesotho has the world’s third highest percentage of HIV/AIDS prevalence, just behind Swaziland and Botswana. More than 23 percent of the population was infected as of 2009, a marked improvement from the 27 percent mark of 2003.

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