UM soccer players make impression on students

Published 11:32 am Friday, February 27, 2009

“Can you guess where these athletes are from by their accent?”

That was the question Dr. Carolyn Kirby asked a Montevallo High School class of ninth–graders as she introduced some of the University of Montevallo’s international students who are on the women’s soccer team. Thus began an interesting and fun meeting of the two groups. Chris Stano, a physical education teacher and coach at MHS, organized the meeting with the hope of inspiring his students to participate in sports activities and a healthy lifestyle.

Along with Kirby were teammates Michaela Moertzsch (Peine, Germany), Natalie Martineau (Oakville, Ontario), Nicole Cho-Yee (London), assistant coach Stacey Balaam (Suffolk, England) and player Laura Alford (Brandon, Miss.). Balaam led the discussion as the international soccer players talked about their experiences participating in sports in their home countries and how it differed from one country to another. They emphasized the opportunities available here in the U.S. and the importance of healthy eating and good nutrition.

Freshman Moertzsch told the high school students about the sports and exercise she participated in as she grew up in Germany.

“It was great to have the opportunity to tell the students about my life in Germany and hopefully make them understand how important it is to play sports,” Moertzsch said.

The soccer players were happy to see that most of the ninth–graders already participated in fitness of some form; many play basketball, softball or volleyball.

During the discussion one of the high school students asked, “What changes did you have to make to adapt to American culture and was that difficult?” Another query was regarding the nutritional choices they had to make as athletes. Dr. Kirby said she was very impressed with the depth of those questions. They were extremely mature and reflected a deep level of interest, she said. Each student who asked or answered a question was given a T-shirt.

Stano invited the soccer players to visit again within the next few weeks and the MHS students are planning to train and to join their new soccer-player friends for the annual Run for Research on April 29. They also plan to attend the annual alumni soccer game on April 3 and to attend the up-coming UM health fair.

Catherine Legg can be reached at