Cobras International Flavor
Published: Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 12:09
For years, the majority of student athletes at Parkland could be easily classified. A large part of Parkland's athletic make-up includes players who, for the most part, are born in America. Douglas Andrade, Paulo Delgadillo, and Keren Sharabi are helping lead a charge that looks to shift that trend a bit. There are but a sample size of the diversity of cultures dispersed among Parkland and our athletes are no exception.
To understand the international athlete, is to understand their background, troubles, and triumphs. It goes a lot deeper than sports, which may or may not come as a surprise to some people. When asked what was the biggest obstacle overcome before coming to Parkland to play soccer, Delgadillo and Andrade both responded with leaving their family. For the typical American teenager heading to college, your parents and other family are a mere car drive away or even a plane ride. For Delgadillo of Bolivia and Andrade of Brazil, that option is not that readily available.
The international athlete must acclimate to the American culture and different aspects of American life. This could prove to be somewhat of a challenge as evidenced by Sharabi. Originally from Israel, Sharabi noticed a change right away. "People don't show a lot of emotion," she said. Some cultures have a warmer feel to them. Sharabi noted that everyone would be greeted with "a hug and a kiss on both cheeks," in her's.
Communication barriers must also be overcome as well. The beginning always presents an obstacle. Some of these athletes learn English in their country before they actually move here. Unfortunately there is no way to teach the subtle nuances and slang terms that come with living in America, coupled with college life. Therefore an adjustment period takes place, longer for some than others.
On the soccer field however, the guys were quick to point out that language and communication were not a problem. Their assistant coach John Sadilek backed this up, "Paulo (Delgadillo) speaks Spanish, and Dodo (Andrade) speaks Portuguese. Fortunately for us, they both speak English," said Sadilek. "Actually, both of these players are strong leaders on the field, largely because of their communication skills." Although it takes a while to adjust, that ability to communicate in numerous ways has proved to pay dividends for those players and their coaching staff.
As with language, the style of play does not completely translate over. An adjustment must be made on the field as well. "The (soccer) style is more physical, they play more with their body," says Andrade. "In Brazil, they play more with their head." Delgadillo echoes this point. There is a lot more strategy involved because the athletes are not as physically advanced as some American athletes. Though somewhat looked upon as a disadvantage initially, Coach Sadilek has implemented their diverse styles into his game plan. "The different styles of play are much more difficult to overcome for the opponent, than for us. As a group, we can attack in a variety of ways, which seems to be hard to handle for opposing defenders," he said.
Soccer may be a choice for some, but for these athletes soccer tends to be an escape. For those who can't afford school, they tend to fall into illegal activities. There are other issues, whether that involves a lack of resources or support, that affect the focus on soccer and sports and in general which influences a lot of the aspiring student athletes to leave their home country and pursue their dream in the America. "Soccer motivates me," says Delgadillo who has numerous friends that have climbed the ranks since coming to America. "I've seen where soccer can lead me." He is one of many that use soccer as a tool to advance.
Even with that goal in mind, it is not always that simple for everyone to leave home after high school and pursue their sports dream. Sharabi knows this all too well, "After high school you have to serve in the army for two years." This is a mandatory procedure. Men must serve an extra year. She also faced another challenge not uncommon to international student athletes that makes the transition a bit difficult. Sharabi, before attending to Parkland, was a student athlete at Barton Community College in Kansas. Unfortunately, she had to transfer a year later after the scholarships for international students were cut. Sharabi was left with the unenviable task of finding a host family. Luckily, with a bit of assistance, one was found for her right away. Even though this was yet another adjustment, Sharabi describes her host family as "really helpful" and says "they created a home environment." This allows her to focus on academics as well as athletics.
The rush of international athletes has made a huge impact on the Parkland name and affected everyone around them. The diverse backgrounds, experiences, and athletic abilities should bolster the Parkland athletic department as a whole. A better understanding of the international athlete should serve as inspiration. Be sure to the support these athletes and all the Parkland Cobra athletic programs.