Eagle teams cover the globe: Athletes make adjustments to different culture
Friday, October 26, 2007
By Tyler Hancock
pressures of school can be difficult for any student. The pressure to
do well is sometimes doubled for student-athletes who are expected to
perform well in their sport and in the classroom.
For the 21 athletes representing 14 nations at Oklahoma Christian
University, being a student-athlete in a foreign culture adds a third
dimension most students don’t have to deal with.
“It’s hard learning in classes when you are having a hard time with
the language,” soccer player Cristian Fernandes said. “I don’t want
people to help me because I don’t know English well. Sometimes I get
help from the teachers and friends, but I like to figure things out by
For Southampton, England native Charlotte Heron, the language does
not cause problems, but growing up in a different country sometimes
causes an education gap.
“The education system is different,” Heron said. “Sometimes I know
more or less than other students so I sometimes will get very bored in
a class, or have to do extra work.”
Even the way classes are set up causes problems for international student-athletes.
“A lot of the international kids are studying in a way that is
completely foreign to them in how they listen and how they read,” head
golf coach David Lynn said. “It shows how motivated they are to come
over here and be successful in the classroom. I can’t imagine going
through a Spanish institution to get a degree.”
Being from a different culture also causes difficulties in meeting other students and can cause some miscommunication.
“It can also be difficult connecting with fellow students simply
because of our different cultures and upbringings,” Heron said.
“Usually when other students realize I am from England, they ask me
questions about me, but after the initial meeting I am usually treated
“Sometimes I actually have to remind them that I am not from America and some things are different where I’m from.”
International athletes hear about Oklahoma Christian and are brought to
the school in different ways and for different reasons. For Fernandes,
playing soccer for the Eagles was a chance to get away from his home.
The soccer star from Maringa, Brazil said life in the United States
can be much less dangerous and provide more opportunities after school.
He said he has no desire to return to his home, but wants to bring his
family to America after he graduates.
Fernandes heard about Oklahoma Christian from fellow Brazilian and
current assistant coach for the women’s soccer team, Ivan Coco. He said
Coco encouraged him to come to Oklahoma Christian because Coco thought
he would fit in well at the school.
Lynn said former players, like Coco, telling their friends about Oklahoma Christian has been one of his best recruiting tools.
“The best players I’ve had have been players that come to Oklahoma
Christian because they’ve known somebody on the team already,” Lynn
Lynn said recruiting services also help coaches get in touch with international players.
“A lot of former players with the NAIA or NCAA are seeing the need
for a middle man in helping bring the international kids over to the
states, Lynn said. “A lot of those guys are starting up recruiting
services to get athletes hooked up with the right program.”
These services help to connect players to coaches in the United
States. These middle men inform coaches of players they feel will fit
well in their program. From that point, coaches recruit the players on
Bringing in international athletes provides Oklahoma Christian the opportunity to be an influence on the athletes.
“I’ve seen kids come in that are completely un-churched and this
school has had an effect on them and by the time they leave, they are
attending church somewhere,” Lynn said. “I’ve also seen kids come in
and it be a turn off to them because they are from cultures that are
different from what they came from. A lot of things they did at home
they are told they can’t do.”
Heron said the university has been a good influence on her and she
enjoys the Bible classes and attending church services with friends.
For , Oklahoma Christian has provided a family atmosphere.
“The people here are nice, cool people,” said. “They look to help
other people who need to be helped and it feels like a family here.
Being away from my family is the hardest thing ever because I want to
take care of my family.”