Maybe a reason for few Latino pro athletes

February 24, 2019

Re: “Why so few Latino pro athletes?” Another View, Tuesday:

As an expository writer and sometime editor, I admire the commentary by Ruben M. Vasquez on the number of Latino athletes in college and professional sports. He did careful research to support his questions as well as his conclusions.

As an English as a second language and English instructor, I learned that the right question is as important as the correct answer. Sgt. Vasquez might begin by asking why our national soccer team is so often embarrassed by teams from tiny South and Central American countries. The answer is likely that many of those nations embrace only one sport — futbol. The Dominican Republic, Cuba and Japan have never been soccer powers, but a number of outstanding baseball players from those countries have shown how strong their cultures have grown in that sport.

As a club and varsity soccer coach, I often had to add a player to my roster during the season in order to accommodate his or her participation in some other sport. For decades, U.S. athletes have made choices — from elementary school onward — among football, baseball, track and field, basketball, soccer, volleyball, gymnastics, lacrosse, karate, etc. A college or pro recruiter likes to claim an athlete who has dabbled in a few sports but devoted most time to the sport the recruiter holds dear.

After watching San Antonio Spur Manu Ginobili play for about 10 minutes, I could tell that he had played soccer with some skill. That experience certainly contributed to his success on the basketball court. He learned to fall without injury and likely chose to focus on basketball before his joints got damaged by the extensive running demanded in soccer.

Perhaps more young Latino athletes would win scholarships and pro contracts if they were guided by parents and coaches to concentrate on no more than three sports?

Bill Gisler is a retired teacher and coach.