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When Teamwork Requires Empathy

Brandon Augugliaro

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“Pasa la, pasa la!” I shouted across the field to my teammate. He looked up and pinged a hard-driven pass directly to my foot. We went on to win that game and have a solid season. The reason for our success was partially due to our skill as players, but also to our communication as a team.

Soccer, just like any other sport, requires teamwork. One integral component of teamwork is communication. An interesting fact about our team that separates us from other teams is our diversity. Over the years, the Brewster High School Varsity team has had many players from South and Central America who have contributed significantly to our team. The thing is, though, the majority of these players only spoke Spanish and there was a huge communication barrier both on and off the field.

While some players would get annoyed with our Spanish-speaking players when they made bad decisions or didn’t listen, I saw it as an opportunity. I would tell teammates, “How do you think you would do if I dropped you off in Quito and you had to play a game only with Ecuadorian kids?” Some would say they’d be fine, others would admit it probably wouldn’t work out that great. I would always think about perspective. What if I didn’t know anyone, what if I didn’t have any friends, what if I couldn’t even make new friends because I couldn’t speak the language? I felt for these kids, and sought to see how I could improve the situation.

I heard a statistic that by 2050, the main language spoken in the United States would be Spanish, not English. After hearing that, everyday at practice was an opportunity to better myself and better my team. I would go to practice with my ears open and just listen to my Hispanic teammates. I would try communicating with them at first, and like most things in life, it didn’t happen overnight. As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect,” and I truly experienced that.

I was on the Varsity team as a freshman so I figured I’d have four solid years to practice my Spanish. Slowly and surely, my listening evolved into short simple sentences. Then as time went on, I found myself holding conversations in Spanish, too. It’s crazy how far a little bit each day can go.

During games, I would make sure that I was communicating with my teammates, not just in English, but also in Spanish, as it didn’t help the team if only half of us were on the same page. More important than winning more games and playing better as a team, I also started developing friendships with these kids. To this day, many are still close friends. I feel so lucky to be able to communicate with an abundance of people, as I feel there’s so much to learn from other people. Furthermore, being an American, I’m quite privileged in comparison to the other billions of people on this planet. Just hearing the stories of how my ‘amigos’ got to this country and what their lives were like before is truly inspiring.

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