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For One Green Knight, Studying Abroad Means Coaching Abroad

Stu Kwaterski ’18 is making the most of his semester-abroad opportunities in Spain – and even his football is benefiting from the cultural exchange.

Kwaterski is becoming more confident in his Spanish language skills each day, adjusting to cultural differences, including paying for water in restaurants and occasionally for restroom use, and getting used to meal times – breakfast at 8:30 a.m., lunch at 2 p.m. and dinner at 9 or 10 p.m. “The food has been incredible,” he says. “If anyone knows me, they know I’m not a picky eater so I have tried cool foods all the way from fresh swordfish out of the Mediterranean to duck and apple pizza at a local pizzeria. I couldn’t be happier as far as food goes.”

One of his favorite trips was to Neuschwanstein Castle, located on the border of Germany and Austria embedded in the Alps.

And, much to his surprise, Kwaterski is also coaching football – not futbol, but American football for the Valnecia Fire Bats.

One of the admission counselors discovered that he played for St. Norbert. He asked him if he would be interested in joining the Valencia Football Club.

“I decided it was in my best interest not to play with my senior season approaching, but then [the head coach] asked me to coach,” explains Kwaterski, a defensive lineman for the Green Knights. “I hope to be a high school teacher and coach after I graduate, so this was a great opportunity for me to get some experience and meet some great people. You don’t understand how much you need to learn in a language until you try coaching in a different language.”

Kwaterski works with the offensive and defensive linemen.

“We do a lot of pass rush technique [work] and how to get off blocks in the running game,” he says.

The Fire Bats have some size. One lineman on the 35-player roster is 6’4” and weighs 300 pounds.

“The difference is in the speed and knowledge of the game,” says Kwaterski. “They’re just as good of athletes in Spain as there are in the USA, but they just don’t understand the game as much yet.”

The Fire Bats play their home games at a park used for multiple sports in Valencia, Spain’s third largest city. The players are knowledgeable about the NFL. The team gathered to watch the Super Bowl at a bar. Denver Broncos jerseys are the most prevalent in Valencia among the NFL teams, says Kwaterski.

Coaching helps Kwaterski with his own football preparation, especially the mental side of the game, he says.

“I’ve been working hard in the gym in between classes and trying to both enjoy being abroad, while also preparing for my season,” he says. “It has gone pretty well so far. The coaching opportunity has me thinking about the game of football whether its schemes, footwork, hand placement, stance and the overall mentality. I have tried to make it my spring ball and go through everything mentally.”

Some athletes are afraid to study abroad in the offseason because they believe it will hinder their training for the upcoming season. Kwaterski believes that you can do both.

“Even in a different country with a change in gym quality, cuisine, sleep schedules and traveling on weekends, it is possible to stay in shape,” he says. “You might even find yourself with a good coaching opportunity or being able to play while you’re overseas. Football was not the only coaching/sports opportunity in the program. I have friends involved in basketball, volleyball, track and soccer. I encourage those who want to study abroad to absolutely take that opportunity.”


May 2, 2017