Translating Soccer Into Fútbol

Jimmy Carrasquillo
"The advantages [of speaking Spanish] are pretty evident if you have players that speak Spanish," Jimmy Carrasquillo said. "The key is balancing when to use Spanish as a point of emphasis." (Joel Richardson - The Washington Post)

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By Rich Campbell
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Jimmy Carrasquillo was participating in a passing drill with his Washington-Lee High School boys' soccer team on a wind-swept afternoon in Arlington last week when he broke his players' silence.

"I want to hear you talking!" the coach shouted.

Immediately, the bilingual chorus began. The rolled r's and sharp "ah" sounds of Spanish mingled with shouts in English, as his diverse group of players continued the drill.

Seconds later, a Spanish-speaking player lost the ball to a defender from behind. Carrasquillo's whistle screeched.

"¡Tienes que ver!" he yelled, pointing to his left eye. You have to see.

Carrasquillo is one of several bilingual high school boys' soccer coaches in the Washington area who flip back and forth between English and Spanish as they lead their players in practices and games. It's a phenomenon unique to boys' soccer, Washington area athletic directors say, because soccer more than any other sport attracts foreign-born students familiar with the game to high school teams. And with the region's growing Latino population, it is a skill a number of coaches recognize as central to their jobs.

"The advantages [of speaking Spanish] are pretty evident if you have players that speak Spanish," Carrasquillo said. "The key is balancing when to use Spanish as a point of emphasis."

Carrasquillo, a 33-year-old Washington native, learned Spanish as his primary language from his Puerto Rican father and Ecuadoran mother. He also speaks flawless English, but his command of Spanish endears him to his Latino players.

He flows seamlessly between English and Spanish depending on whom he is addressing. As the leader of a team on which nine of 18 players come from five Latin American countries, he uses Spanish out of necessity.

"I do it so they understand clearly what I'm trying to get through to them," the eighth-year coach said. "Instead of saying, 'Take him on,' or, 'Go at him,' I'll just say, 'Llevátelo.' " If I say, 'take,' sometimes they might take that literally. Obviously, it's in the context of the game, but if I'm sitting here yelling, 'Llevátelo, llevátelo,' it's in the Spanish player's ear because he's thinking in Spanish."

Other bilingual coaches switch to Spanish to make foreign players feel at ease.

"It helps to break the diversity barriers," Annandale Coach Antonio Rivadeneira said. "Normally when kids come from other places, they're shy. Sometimes they're afraid to speak English because they're afraid people won't understand them. By speaking Spanish, you can develop more confidence between the coach and player, and the kids don't have the fear of communicating with you."


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