This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
There's this running joke among the Layton Christian Academy football players and coaches. It's obvious and silly, yet the exchange is a tie that binds.
The exchange had more of an impact last year when there were three athletes named Juan. This season, there are only two, Juan Albuja from Ecuador and Juan Vigueras from Spain.
More than one-third of Layton's players are from foreign lands, a mini United Nations made up of 10 players from eight countries, thanks to an active foreign student exchange program.
Learning a new language may be tough, but try explaining a power sweep to, say, Shun Ishimaru of Japan. Whatever language barriers exist are usually broken down by gestures, facial expressions and sign language.
"That's universal," said coach Will Hawes.
While a few players are still learning the game, Hawes was lucky with Henri Jussila. The Finnish senior has played since childhood and is among the state's top backs. He was the Most Valuable Player of his country's championship game for ages 21 and under.
Jussila's teammate and fellow Finn, Akseli Kaasalainen, is responsible for opening many of the holes in opposing defenses.
"We were fortunate," Hawes said. "We got one of the best running backs in the state from Finland."
The difference between football in Finland and the United States?
"They hit harder here," Jussila said. "They play to the whistle."
Layton (3-3, 0-1 North) hit Whitehorse hard during the weekend, piling up a 53-6 victory. Altamont visits Friday in an important game that has state playoff implications.
As difficult as it may be to prepare in typical situations, the Layton football experience is somewhat different.
"It's kind of hard," said Jake Warden. "We try and tutor them. It's fun but it is also difficult."
Yet, there is satisfaction in the teaching and bringing different cultures together for a common purpose.
"We want to make sure they get the best experience they can," Hawes said. "It's been a pleasure."
There are myriad reasons each player wanted to get involved with a new sport, including seeing friends play or simply just to be involved. A few didn't like it and didn't stick with the game. Some didn't like football, but changed over time.
For example, Sungmin Kim of South Korea now loves the game.
"It's a man's sport and I want to be a man," he said. "I like the hitting."
If Hawes has one negative about the experience, it comes from the coaching side.
"The only down side, about 99 percent of the kids don't stay during the summer," he said. "They can't learn and train. You can't teach this game in a week. You are also teaching a position.
"When you see it translate to the field, then the entire team gets excited about it."
Smiles are also a universal language.
LCA's foreign imports
Finland • Henri Jussila, Akseli Kaasalainen
South Korea • Sungmin Kim, Saeyun Lee
Spain • Juan Vigueras
China • Yang Kun Lun
Czech Republic • Ondrej Richter
Germany • Nicolas Dorr
Japan • Shun Ishimaru
Ecuador • Juan Albuja