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Published October 08, 2012, 09:36 PM

International high school athletes help metro soccer thrive

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The North Dakota boys state soccer tournament begins Thursday in Fargo. And it's becoming a more of international sport in the F-M area each year. Every metro team except Shanley has at least one foreign born player on its varsity, with South and West Fargo having close to 10 each. If you include JV, all metro schools have an international flavor.

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The North Dakota boys state soccer tournament begins Thursday in Fargo. And it's becoming a more of international sport in the F-M area each year. Every metro team except Shanley has at least one foreign born player on its varsity, with South and West Fargo having close to 10 each. If you include JV, all metro schools have an international flavor.

Increased soccer participation by players born outside the U.S. is partly due to the population growth of the metro area. A school split at South, which will also happen soon in West Fargo, has afforded more varsity opportunities.

Doug Millar, West Fargo Head Coach: “14 years I've been here and I used to struggle to get two squads. Now, you've go 60-70 kids out.”

Dean Hashbarger, South Head Coach: “We, as coaches, are doing a better job getting in touch with foreign students in junior high and high school and telling them this is their chance.”

Having a bunch of players from different countries does have its challenges.

Millar: “These kids are very creative, but very individually creative. We had to teach teamwork.”

Hashbarger: “There's a trust factor. You have to trust that if you give them the ball, you'll get it back and good things will happen. We've overcome that.”

The foreign players have also taught their local teammates, and in turn, improved their teams.

Hashbarger: “They bring something to us that we are missing: flair, style and we'd be doing a disservice if we tried to take that away from them. Try to maintain that within the framework of what we're doing. They've got incredible skills.”

Millar: “You'll see a local kid frustrated because a foreign teammate will hold the ball longer than he should. But you'll also see the foreign kid say ‘Why didn't you just take that guy one-on-one?’”

For many, it's the first structured soccer they've ever played, the first organized team they've ever been a part of.

Isaac Kehson, South Sr. Forward: “At first, I thought I was so different. But when I saw the unity and the friendship, everything started going well. And now I'm so proud to be a Bruin.”

Millar: “It's speed of play. You'll see feint, step over, more creative stuff, and it makes everyone around them faster.”

It's also made high school soccer in the metro the best it's ever been.

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