Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Andrea Davenport, Josh Perry, Alizah Qadri
Most families are familiar with the process of foreign exchange: A student from another country arrives at one’s house to learn the culture and teach the hosts about theirs.
But most people have never had a professional soccer player stay at their house.
Employing coaches from The United Kingdom, Chicago Fire “Soccer in the Community” aims to spread soccer throughout Effingham for the second year.
However, besides teaching kids the basics of soccer, the program gives families an opportunity to learn other cultures by hosting a traveling soccer coach.
Jamie Rose, 23, of Brighton, England, has traveled all over England, as well as America, and has been playing soccer from an early age.
As his first year at the Chicago Fire camp, Rose recounted the experience of coaching the children.
“It’s nice for them to learn the fundamentals at that age,” Rose said. “Hopefully, it will make them enjoy it.”
The family of Bobby and Marie (Belmonte) Brummer hosted Rose. Bobby Brummer said when he was growing up, his family had hosted more than 20 foreign exchange students.
“It was a natural fit,” said Bobby Brummer. “I always ran around with an international crowd in college.”
His wife, Marie Belmonte Brummer, said their son, Santiago, age 4, grew to love soccer because of his coaches.
“Sometimes it is kind of hard to get the little ones to play soccer, even if they like the game,” Belmonte Brummer said. “So last year, he remembered some of the coaches names still. He really liked the experience.”
Josh Williams, 22, from Sheffield, England, began coaching at the age of 15. A former professional player for Sheffield United in Britain, he is being hosted by the family of Aaron and Billie Jansen. He described how he enjoys teaching, as well as playing the game.
“I love seeing the kids when they understand something and you see them actually applying that to that play,” Williams said.
As the hosts got to know Williams more, he noticed the benefits of his relationships with the children. He found that his presence was accepted and much appreciated.
“I think it’s great for the kids to have extra people around,” said Williams. “They get real excited, they want to stay up late.”
Besides earning a new friend, the children also experience the cultural exchange opportunities of hosting an international soccer player.
“They’ve been asking us questions. They’ve been learning about the different accents of the North and the South (of England). They have been great with us,” Williams said.
Regardless of their different cultural backgrounds, the children show adoration for their coaches and their love of soccer is affirmed, Rose said.
“Just the smiles on their faces — seeing them learn, seeing them have fun really motivates you to keep doing what you’re doing,” Rose said.