By Emily Cohen
While talking with a reporter over Skype on a computer in his room, David Adams hears a knock on the door. "Is your room clean and your bed made?" the man asks in Spanish. He’s the father of the host family with whom David is staying for his four-month exchange program with Queretaro FC, a first division professional club in Ciudad Queretaro, Mexico, his second stint in two years.
Not so different than living at home in Utah. But that’s where the similarity ends. Last year, David lived with his coach’s family in a protective environment, participating in family activities as well as his soccer commitments. This year, he’s had to become more independent, which isn’t always easy for a 16-year-old living in a foreign country.
“Every morning, I get up at 7 and take a taxi to practice,” says David. “Then, when practice is over around 11:30, I take a taxi home. It’s a little different than the parent carpools back home and than driving to and from practice with my coach's family, which I did last year. Plus, it costs about 100 pesos [$8.50] each day.”
Socially, David is more isolated this time as well. “Sometimes, the guys on the team have parties or go out together on the weekends, but mostly I spend time in my room doing homework or talking with my family back in Utah on Skype. I also hang out with the son in the family with whom I’m staying, who is 15, and his friends, but not that often.”
But the bigger shock came on the field. Arriving in Queretaro in early February, David quickly realized that the makeup of the team had changed dramatically from last season. “Only six or seven of the 24 players, including me, were the same. One player had moved up to the Third Division team, but the rest had been cut and replaced with new players. And the coach was new too. In fact, the entire club had been revamped.”
Which meant David had to prove himself all over again. The lone American, standing out with his white-blond head of hair -- but a thick skin.
From the beginning, it was clear which players the coach designated as game-day starters and subs. Says David, “Twelve players were grouped in one area and the rest of us practiced somewhere else.”
More recently, however, David has found himself moving to the game-day group when playing rosters are drawn up on Friday before Saturday games. “The first time I was on the game-day roster, I played for one or two minutes. In the next game, against Cruz Azul, I played about 15 minutes and scored the PK that won the game for the Gallos. And in the game against Club America, I played 25 or 30 minutes and felt like I gave our team a chance to win. I’m not starting yet, but that’s ok. I’m still proving myself.”
And he’s doing that differently than last year as well. How? “My whole attitude this year is different. Last year, I was very serious and focused on not making any mistakes on the field. That was how I wanted to prove myself on the field. This year, I’m taking more risks, and they’ve been paying off. The coaches can see my creativity and know that I can think quickly on the field. More risk results in a greater reward. And I hope that reward is a starting role.”
David has another two months to crack the starting lineup. He comes home to Utah on May 28th, just as the school year ends and summer begins. Until then, David is focused on completing his sophomore year of high school online, playing soccer, and making sure his Gallos teammates know what he can do on the field. “I know I’ve succeeded in impressing them when they swear at me in English,” David laughs.
(Be a part of David’s experience in Mexico by following him on Twitter at DavidAdams94.)
(Emily Cohen is a freelance writer living in Berkeley, Calif. She has been a team manager for her children's soccer, baseball, basketball, and softball teams -- and has a blog at TeamSnap.com.)