Four months ago, 16 Palmer Trinity students with different nationalities came together on a soccer field with one goal in mind — to make their way to the Florida high school state soccer finals.
Twenty-four ninth through 12th graders, all having different nationalities, were chosen by three coaches to play on the Palmer Trinity School varsity boys soccer team. It would turn out to be a great season for the team with its international flavor, even though they never managed to get to the “Big Dance”, the state championship game.
However, the team did have a successful season, amassing a regular season won-lost record of 16-4 with five ties, while winning the district title and making it to the regional semi-finals before falling to the eventual state championship team.
The Palmer Trinity Falcons scored almost 100 goals during the season, while holding their opponents to an average of less than one per game. Until the final game of the season, they never lost by more than one goal and they did not play an easy schedule, taking on much larger schools such as Key West, LaSalle, Keys Gate Charter and Mater Academy. The team went into every game with a confident air, perhaps because 40 percent of the players were seniors or maybe because most of the team members had played together for three seasons. Or perhaps it was just because they knew that their colorful heritage and being from some of the best soccer playing nations in the world just might help them out. Whatever the reasons, this international group of student athletes demonstrated why soccer is described by many as “a sport that knows no language barriers.”
Of course, all of the players spoke perfect English. But with their many different backgrounds and cultures, they all brought something different to the team. Instead of being a team divided by differences, they were a group united because of their diversity.
The season’s success certainly can be attributed to the players’ skill, but also to what they brought to the game. Most of them grew up watching their national team in international games or in World Cup competition, learning some of the finer points of the game from relatives and friends who share the same background, and scrutinizing the skills and play of heroes. And, these varsity players shared their passion for their heroes with anyone prepared to listen and would willingly debate who is the best international player or why their country has the best soccer team in the world.
Most would agree that soccer skills, similar to skills in all other sports, are learned, that players are taught how to play and that a team is successful due in part to those teachings. But, with a team that brings 16 nationalities together, the case might be made that the diversity among the players’ soccer heritage was equally important to the team’s success.