Hilliard-based soccer club Olimpia USA relies on bilingual training

Like most youth football coaches, Wilmer and Amy Gonzales of Olimpia USA Soccer teach their players how to dribble and pass.

But when they founded their Hilliard-based football club in 2017, they had another goal in mind: a bilingual approach to set it apart from other organizations in central Ohio.

“The football community is a pretty tight-knit community,” Amy Gonzales said, so she and her husband decided to create a website for Olimpia with text in both English and Spanish.

“We can also speak fluent Spanish to parents (or family members) who call us,” she said.

The bilingual approach affects the teams and the players.

Olimpia USA soccer coach Wilmer Gonzalez talks to his team before a February 5 match against Upper Arlington United at Stars Indoor Sports in North Columbus.

For example, in the U17 boys’ club team, some players are bilingual in English and Spanish and some are not, but they learn their cultures and language by playing together, Amy Gonzales said.

Recently, she says, several boys used a mobile app between games to communicate in English and Spanish rather than having someone else translate for them.

“Nobody asked them to do it; they just did it alone so they could all talk to each other,” she said.

They also share their cultures, including customs unique to Central and South American counties, Gonzales said.

“But (we also have) players from countries like Morocco and Palestine,” she said.

Playing together has led to camaraderie off the pitch, she said.

“Players are a part of everyone’s life and celebrations,” said Amy Gonzales.

Many players were recently preparing to come together for a family’s quinceañera, a daughter’s 15th birthday celebration in Mexico and the equivalent of a “Sweet 16” in the United States, she said. .

Olimpia USA Soccer's Kyle Ziringer takes control of the ball during a February 5 match against Upper Arlington United at Stars Indoor Sports in North Columbus.

“It’s the best club I’ve played with; I’ve never seen so many great football players,” said 16-year-old Kyle Ziringer, who also plays football for Hilliard Bradley High School.

Kyle’s father, Ed Ziringer, said his son joined Olimpia to play in a “more competitive” environment after watching games at Franks Park, a Columbus Parks and Recreation Department facility on Frazell Road in Hilliard. .

“Parents and siblings attend all games,” Ed Ziringer said. “It’s like a little family (and) a very cool experience.”

Brian Turk, whose 15-year-old son Alex plays for Olimpia, praised Wilmer Gonzales’ coaching style.

Olimpia USA Soccer's Alex Turk takes control of the ball during a February 5 match against Upper Arlington United at Stars Indoor Sports in North Columbus.

“I’ve played football for 40 years, and (that’s) the way it should be done,” he said, noting the “fine line” between abusive coaches and “pushing players to challenge and improve”.

Westerville North High School student Alex Turk is bilingual and says he enjoys learning and sharing Hispanic culture with other players.

When Angel Rangel and Carmen Ritter moved from Houston to central Ohio in 2014, Rangel said he was looking for a soccer club for their twin sons, Angel and Alan Rangel Ritter, to help them get new friends. The couple also have an 8-year-old daughter, Karen, who plays for Olimpia.

He found a club trained by Wilmer Gonzales before the creation of Olimpia.

“Wilmer is very passionate about football, but he also develops good life skills for players,” Rangel said.

Her son, Angel, 15, is a student at Olentangy Liberty High School. Ansaid being around other players helps him keep his native language sharp as he speaks English at school.

“We also help each other become better players,” he said.

Olimpia attract players from Dublin, Grandview Heights, Grove City, Hilliard Powell, Upper Arlington, Westerville and Worthington.

In 2017 it started with four teams and 50 boys and one girl, but now it is a league with 173 players, 12 teams for boys and three teams for girls.

Olimpia USA soccer coach Wilmer Gonzalez talks to his team before a February 5 match against Upper Arlington United at Stars Indoor Sports in North Columbus.

Wilmer Gonzales, 45, coaches the men’s teams and Amy Gonzales, 41, coaches the girls, sometimes at the same time at different venues, including the Stars Indoor Sports complex on Busch Boulevard north of Columbus and Soccer First on Dublin Park Drive in Dublin.

Teams train at Franks Park, Santos Indoor Facility in Hilliard and elsewhere, but finding enough space is becoming an issue, Amy Gonzales said.

She has attended several recent Hilliard City Council meetings to ask the city to find additional land space as rental costs for other facilities rise, she said.

But Olimpia doesn’t turn away players for financial reasons, and through donations or insider support, it ensures every child can play, Amy Gonzales said.

Wilmer Gonzales said he and his wife founded Olimpia, named after a professional club in Honduras he played for, to enable boys and girls who want to excel at football, maybe even play professionally, to achieve their dream.

“Where I was coaching I couldn’t find that opportunity,” he said.

“There were many times Wilmer saw talent in a kid that other coaches didn’t see (and) he would develop that talent, (but) then (the player) would go to other clubs,” Amy Gonzales said. . “(Olimpia) is a way for (us) to see it through and through.”

Children as young as 5 can join the club’s junior academy, and those aged 8 and over can play in competitive clubs until they are 17 at the start of a season.

The U17 team will be the litmus test for a post-playing career among Olimpia alumni.

“Hopefully some of these kids will be spotted by colleges,” Wilmer Gonzales said.

He came to central Ohio after meeting his wife while on a church mission in Honduras.

Olimpia USA Soccer's Emory Gonzales watches from the bench during a Feb. 5 match against Upper Arlington United at Stars Indoor Sports in North Columbus.

The couple live in Hilliard and have two children: Emory, 15, and Cédric, 11, who both play football, of course.

For more information on Olimpia USA Soccer, visit olimpiausasoccer.com.

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