International athletes face challenge of playing sports overseas


Karly Horn

International student and senior Guillermo Almirall takes the ball up the field. Varsity soccer lost this game 2 to 1 against Mount St. Joseph High School on Sept. 23.

On the first day of practice, sweat drips down in buckets, muscles pull, and foreign words are  shouted over the field.  Senior Gonzalo Laura Rivera, an international student from Spain, has to push himself to keep up with his teammates on varsity soccer.

Since it is his first year at JC, Laura Rivera is adapting to the different styles of the game. He said that in Spain they use more “technique” training, while in America it is more “physical,” or rougher.

However, Laura Rivera prefers the focus of his home country’s sport, because he believes that technique is more crucial to performance.

“Adapting is difficult in the sense that I need to work hard to gain the physical form they have…of course I’ll keep training to keep improving, because good is never good enough,” Laura Rivera said.

Other international students face similar challenges.  According to Athletic Director Lawrence Dukes, “[Roughly] 15 out of 52 international students play sports.”

Two of these international students are sophomores Stephania Ortega, who plays JV soccer, and Lily Liu, who plays JV field hockey.

Ortega arrived in America from Honduras a week before school started. She likes the game of soccer more in America because “it is more organized and more formal.”

On the other hand, Liu came from Nanjing, China. China has a limited supply of sports for its students to participate in.  “Many countries don’t have competitive sports as extracurricular activities,” Dukes said.

“Playing mostly ping pong, basketball, and badminton” in China makes it hard for Liu in America.  There are no sports teams in her school, but physical education class is required for all grades.  This puts Liu at a slight disadvantage in field hockey, since she had no experience with the sport. However her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“Lily has gotten a lot better at field hockey and is getting better every single day,” junior and teammate Annelise Lang said.

Returning international students also are involved in sports at JC.

Senior Guillermo Almirall is also a Spanish international student who has played varsity soccer for a year.

“Becoming part of the team was actually easier than I expected to be.  [Though] my English wasn’t that good at the beginning and I didn’t know anyone in the team, everyone helped me and made me feel confident since the first week,” Almirall said.

Both Laura Rivera and Almirall play well, according to junior John Cook, a fellow teammate.

“[They] are technically sound and have good skill,” Cook said.

According to Laura Rivera, being in a new country, with a new language, can be challenging, but “has many possibilities.”

Elizabeth Driver is a Sports Editor for The Patriot and