Touchdown! International Students Learn About American Football

American football can be tough to learn for international students. Learn how one university took football into its international student zone.

When Carrie Circosta, ISV Editor-in-Chief, was checking the newsfeed of her Facebook page three photos grabbed her attention. It was the photos of international students learning about American football posted on the page of the Office of Global Initiatives at Eastern Washington University (EWU). She thought this was a fun idea and a really hands-on learning experience for students because American football can be confusing. She asked me if I can write an article about it and I immediately reached out to Megan Abbey, Immigration and Retention Specialist at EWU, to learn more about this ‘unusual and fun’ workshop and its participants.

What was the purpose of the workshop?

Megan: It was the first time in Eastern Washington University’s history when we had this kind of workshop involving international students. We’ve collaborated with Eastern Washington Eagles Football Team (the NCAA Division I Football Championship subdivision) to organize the event that took place on July 26, 2014 with an aim of introducing American football to our international students.

Eastern Washington University is located in the town of Cheney, WA where football is a major part of life on campus and in the local community. For the over 500 international students on campus, the rules and concepts of American football are foreign. One of the many things the Office of Global Initiatives does for international students is to provide them opportunities to connect with other students on campus. Interacting with the football team and learning about a popular American tradition will help the international students engage with the greater campus.

Over sixty international students joined the workshop and had a fantastic time learning about and practicing American football on the famous Red Field along with seven Eagle football players, including Vernon Adams and Cooper Kupp, who have been listed among the top 50 players in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision on the College Sporting News Fabulous Fifty FCS All-America Team.

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What kinds of things did the students learn?

Megan: The event kicked-off with a highlight reel of Eagles Football, including footage of games, the stadium packed with fans, cheerleaders, and tailgating festivities. Coaching staff then introduced key concepts of the game and answered questions from the students. Students were taken on a tour of the Eagles locker room to learn more about a typical routine of a player before the player hits the field. Coach Cherokee Valeria led the group in a huddle before players, students, and coaches stormed the field for fundamental skills drills. Players taught throwing, catching, tackling and footwork at four stations. Students rotated in groups through the stations with players and coaches encouraging the students’ participation. The event also highlighted the talent of a junior marketing student and local D.J. mixing beats for everyone’s enjoyment.

After the event Eagles players autographed footballs and posed in countless “selfies” with the international students. It was a lot of fun.

Do you think students will enjoy the game now that they know the basics?

Megan: Yes, our goal was to expose the students to the basics of the game and to get them excited to join the student body in cheering on our top-ranked football team. Often international students, those who didn’t had a prior exposure to the American football, don’t attend the games because they don’t understand it. With this workshop, we hope that now our students understand the basics of the game and will enjoy American football. This could also lead to making American friends less difficult because now they can easily talk about the game together as the football season will start again soon.

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Interview with International Students

In addition to her interview, Megan introduced me to two  international students who participated at the event and I asked them a couple of questions on their experience attending the workshop.

Kalliope Ribeiro and Tulio Valadares, both from Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil, are sophomore students attending EWU on a one year exchange program. Kalliope studies mechanical engineering and Tulio studies electrical engineering. They’ve been in U.S. for only two months and they already know something about American Football. What a great start!

Why did you attend this workshop?

Kalliope: I got an email from Megan and decided to attend the event because I knew nothing about the American football and this was a great opportunity to learn about it firsthand from our college football players.

Tulio: I like sports so I’m always tuned into sports events and activities. Most of all I like discussing sports with others. Everyone here talks about football so why not learn about it and be part of the conversations? That’s why when I heard about the event, I said, “Sure, I’m coming.”

What did you learn?

Kalliope: They have two opposing teams of eleven players each, with each team having opposite halves of the football field as their territory. The teams take turns at either being the Offense – having the ball in their possession and trying to score points or the Defense – trying to stop the offense from scoring points. Teamwork – that’s what I liked about football. And when you take the effort to learn, it can be really entertaining.

Tulio: We had a lot of fun tackling, throwing, and catching football. We also learned the rules for scoring points. For instance, I heard the word ‘Touchdown’ before, but had no idea what it meant. So touchdown happens when any part of the ball in possession of a player crosses the plane of the opponent’s goal line. You get six points for it.

Will you attend the Eagles games now that you know the basics?

Kalliope: Can’t wait for the start of the football season! So far I liked what I saw here at EWU and Cheney: people were nice to us, polite and always willing to help. And off course, when I’ll meet other international students I’ll recommend them learning about football because it is part of the American culture. I believe that sports are what bridges nations around the world.

Tulio:  Sure, it’s good to know the basics of the sport that most Americans love. I look forward to the upcoming games to cheer for the Eagles. And then let’s talk about it!     

What are your thoughts about American football?

It’s never too late to learn! Head to a college football game this fall!

 

Rustam Niyazov photoRustam Niyazov

ISV Correspondent

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