FA SOCCER: FOUND IN TRANSLATION
One of the most distinctive qualities about the Freeman Academy soccer team is its cultural diversity. But that can also be one of the challenges. It’s a good thing 11-year-old Jose Gonzalez is there to help.
BY JEREMY WALTNER
A celebration knows no language barrier, so when Lesther Rocha scored four goals in Freeman Academy’s first soccer match of the season a month ago, it didn’t matter that the Freeman Public eighth grader from Nicaragua spoke hardly a word of English.
The players were unified in their joy.
But when it comes to communication between the team’s head coach Scott Dent and his starting forward, help is required.
And for that, the team looks to 11-year-old Jose Gonzalez, who lives in Freeman with his dad, Juan Gonzalez Aguilar, and is a fifth grader at Freeman public.
Jose is the team’s beloved translator — and a dandy soccer player himself — who is planted on the sidelines and all ears when Coach Dent is talking. And when it’s time to relay a message to Lesther or any other player on the multi-cultured Bobcats’ soccer team who needs clarification on what was said — including Marion senior Yonathan Lopez, who is also limited in his English — Jose is the solve.
“Jose is a great kid,” says Dent. “He understands the sport, which is huge, so when I’m coaching and I tell Lesther to make an adjustment, I lose most of the communication. But I’ve got this fifth grader right by me, and I can yell out a whole paragraph of what I want Lesther to do, turn around and Jose seemingly lets him know exactly what I just said.
“He’s just a great kid to have on the sideline anyway,” the coach continues, “and he helps in any way he can.”
So, Jose; do you like it?
What do you like about it?
How did it come about?
“Scott told me to be Lester’s translator, and Scott calls me over and tells me what to say.”
What kind of things do you tell him?
“Like, ‘Go play hard.”
And other stuff?
Dent said he met Jose during the summer when he came to open field practices to play, “and I realized that a lot of the guys would look at him when I said something,” he said. “So at the beginning of the year I asked if he’d come for our home games at least and help me out on the sidelines, and he’s been here for every one.”
That Jose is part of a program being built on diversity makes it all the more fun, says the coach.
“That’s one of my favorite parts,” says Dent. “We’ve got a kid on the team from The Congo, China, and then massive amounts of Hispanic culture with Nicaragua and Equator and Guatemala. And even our kids from America come from different backgrounds and different places, so they all have their own style and their own ways of communicating, so that part is fun.”
There’s a pretty good chance that Jose is having as much fun as anybody.