Teaching football skills in China comes with its challenges. Just ask North Central College assistant football coach Brad Wilson, who had the opportunity to teach the sport in Chongqing, China. This summer, he participated in a three-day football, physical education and cultural exchange program sponsored by the Gridiron Leaders Foundation (GLF). He had to negotiate tricky language barriers to deliver instruction and advice.
“Communication was hard because they aren’t familiar with the terminology we use and there’s not always a matching Chinese term for what I’m saying,” says Wilson. “I had to find ways to say things so the translator could communicate it, and we had some campers who stepped up and helped translate as well.” Concepts like distances had to be communicated in centimeters rather than feet.
Along with former University of Michigan and National Football League (NFL) running back Mike Hart and former NFL Europe defensive end Ken Xu, Wilson helped lead football training sessions for a variety of age groups. Campers from China performed three sessions of training each day that incorporated activities related to the core aspects of GLF: cultural understanding, leadership development, U.S.-China relations and education.
“Communication was hard because they aren’t familiar with the terminology we use and there’s not always a matching Chinese term for what I’m saying.”
“It’s still very much in its infant stages,” Wilson says of football’s popularity in China. “It’s a semi-pro philosophy. There are about 30 teams in China at varying degrees of ability. The youngest camper we had was 17 and the oldest was close to 40.”
Campers had the opportunity to develop offensive and defensive football skills along with the positive mental approach to the game and life. The program allowed local Chinese and American coaches to work together to develop a more exciting, safe and fun environment for the game, and campers gained more perspective on how the sport they love can help them realize their personal and professional goals in life.
Wilson, the Cardinals’ offensive line coach, worked with linemen on proper techniques and basic concepts of the game. “It’s not a game they’ve been playing since they were young,” he said. “The translators told me to use the word ‘dui’ for the word ‘correct.’ So anytime they did something correctly, I was yelling ‘dui’ and they were excited that I knew a word and that they did something correctly.”
The GLF’s mission is to create a platform where football athletes can reach their fullest potential as global-minded leaders. The organization uses American football as a vehicle for sustainable friendship, international education and cultural understanding between China and the United States.