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International Flavor

International+Flavor

The Spring Hill College (SHC) Men’s Soccer team has traditionally had international players. The 2017 season is no exception. SHC Men’s Soccer Head Coach, Steve Wieczorek, has focused on recruiting foreigners this season by acquiring 17 international players out of the 28-man roster.

Wieczorek has a unique background, which provides an extra advantage and enables him to recruit international players more easily than other coaches. “When I was a player back in 2004, I played with over a dozen international players. I developed relationships and friendships with those players and that created a solid network over the years for recruiting internationally,” Wieczorek said. The second method he uses is recruiting agencies. “There are services that provide us with access to players and all the schools across the country have similar access to those players,” Wieczorek said. Recruiting all comes down to personal connections and contacts, as well as the recruiting services provided for the SHC Men’s Soccer staff.

The recruiting process for international players can be a difficult one. It can be confusing and complex to figure out a player’s eligibility with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). “The grading systems are different in each country so the NCAA looks at those stipulations and each individual institution has its own rules and regulations for admissions,” Wieczorek said. The process can certainly be daunting and “requires great support, which we have here at SHC. John Espinosa [counselor for students outside the U.S.] is fantastic in helping and supporting us with our foreign players and admissions,” Wieczorek said.

The history of having a significant amount of international players on the Men’s Soccer team is definitely beneficial and helps persuade recruits to come play for SHC. As a recruit, knowing that there are players from your home country or even any foreign players on the team is comforting. Wieczorek stated, “In recruiting international players in general, there’s a comfortability because they’re traveling a great distance.” The head coach also likes to implement a rule that he has configured in hopes to make the international players more comfortable. “One of my rules is that I like to have two players from every country, it’s like the buddy system,” Wieczorek said. “For example, we have three players from Germany and it’s comforting that they can speak German to each other, have a similar background and cultural experience, and then they’re also sharing this experience together here in the U.S.”

Out of all the men and women’s varsity sports affiliated with the NCAA at SHC, there are a total of only 25 international players. The Men’s Soccer team is responsible for 17 of those 25 players and it’s not by coincidence. “Soccer lends itself to having international players because it’s the most globally consumed sport in the world,” Wieczorek said. “Bringing in players from all over the world is just a natural template for soccer. In countries like England, Spain and Germany the game has permeated so many different levels and from such a young age for many of these international players.”  The U.S. administers the world’s premier associations and leagues in sports such as the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Basketball Association (NBA). Premier athletes in these respected sports immigrate to the U.S. to compete at the highest levels. In contrast, the U.S. does not possess the world’s elite soccer leagues and soccer players. Even Americans, who are good enough to compete at the elite level, have begun to emigrate and play in other countries.

Even having over 60% of international players on his team, Wieczorek does not seem to have many issues communicating with the soccer players. “[SHC] has a very strict policy on the level of English fluency that each student-athlete possess.” As long as the players hit the marker that SHC sets forth, which all the SHC Men’s Soccer players have achieved, then all of the players that Wieczorek has on his roster have a baseline in English communication. If there is any issue in communicating it’s usually “with the colloquialisms, whenever I say something that is a common phrase that another American might easily understand is really the only time when you have minor communication challenges.”

Wieczorek mentioned that the hot Southern Alabama climate helps in recruiting the foreigners because it’s a similar setting to most of their native countries. SHC’s Men’s Soccer team consists of 17 international players coming from 12 different countries. All of the international soccer players’ native countries consist of Brazil, Germany, Wales, Iceland, France, Scotland, Sweden, Spain, New Zealand, Austria, Italy and Canada.

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