YORKTOWN, Va. - Lionsbridge FC soccer players are not just from different parts of the country, but also different parts of the world.
When they travel to Hampton Roads to player soccer during the summer they're in need of a place to stay. The team gets to know the athletes' personalities before pairing them with a host family in hopes of helping them score a perfect match.
Once the match is made, the players are on defense, reacting to their new environment.
"You’ve got these reservations. You don’t know these people and you’re intruding a little bit," Lionsbridge FC goaltender and Nottingham, England native Richard Dearle said. "They've got a family and everything and you’re kind of just showing up."
"The first two to three weeks maybe I was a little bit nervous because I don’t want to step out of place, do something they don’t like," Lionsbridge FC midfielder Emeka Eneli, a Dublin, Ohio native, said. "Once you get accustomed to everything they do in the house, match their personalities and things like that, it just becomes like second nature, like a second family for you."
The host families are the ones on offense, constantly trying to find ways to make the athletes feel comfortable in their temporary homes.
"Just invite them to everything that you do, but don't pressure them," Jeff May, father in the host family to Griffin Garrard, said. "Dinner is on the table somewhere around six and we'd love to eat together, but you don't have to. We know you've got other things, you've got other friends, you're teammates, so join us if you can. If you can't, we're not gonna be offended either."
“We played soccer as kids and we both were on travel teams, and we both have actually been hosted by host families," Craig Signorelli, father in the family hosting Lionsbridge FC forward Alfie Pope, said.
"When I was that player I'm pretty sure I wanted to stay in my room, which is kind of what the players do until we wear them down and we watch TV together, and we watch soccer together, and we just eat dinner together," Vicki Signorelli added.
Regardless of which side they're on, the relationship between player and host family leaves a positive impact on everyone involved.
"It's just nice to have these quality role models for both the kids," Andrea May said.
"The host family I have, they’ve been absolutely great," Dearle said. "They're like my second family. They're my American family.”