Statebound Apollos have built strong relationships within team despite language barriers
They’ve been dubbed the “seven-nation family” — 11 starters, seven countries, four languages, and one dream: to become state champions.
The Sharpstown Apollos varsity soccer team earned a regional title over the weekend with a win over Kingwood Park to advance to their first state tournament in school history.
“This is something we have visualized and dreamed about,” Coach Greg Boles said. “This is huge – this is what we’ve worked for, and I am just so proud of these guys.”
The championship-bound Apollos team features a diverse roster of players from seven different countries – USA, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Rwanda, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And, despite some language barriers, the team has formed a strong bond during their time out on the pitch.
“It is beautiful thing, they are all bonded because of this sport, they speak a common language: soccer,” said Coach Boles, a special education teacher who has spent time as an MLS referee. “There might be some cultural differences, but instead of being belligerent, they try to understand one another – and the game brings them back together.”
No doubt this team is a family – ask anyone who has watched them play, practice and study together, and Boles is the head of this soccer household. He is the glue that holds this bond firmly in place. He is revered by his players, and deservedly so.
Sacrificing his time beyond the pitch, Boles has been there for his players when it really counted – when the game was over and real life hit.
“We are all family, and Coach Boles is like a father to us,” said Nigerian-born senior and forward, Isreal Okoroji. “When I didn’t have cleats, he found some for me.”
Coach Boles’ lessons go beyond the game. He reminds his players, daily, that what happens on the field is just a small part of what happens with life.
“Coach Boles teaches us about life outside of soccer,” said Okoroji, who will attend the University of North Texas in the fall. “He teaches us about grit, and he reminds us that education comes first.”
The Apollos familial bond will be on full display starting at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday as Sharpstown takes on Frisco Wakeland in the first state semifinal in school history at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown. If the team wins the match, the Apollos will play in the championship game Saturday afternoon in Georgetown. But, despite what happens on the field, Coach Boles is insistent on continuing to instill a dream beyond the championship.
“I want them to leave with a sense of class and character when they get out of here,” he said. “I want them to be able to take care of themselves, have some dignity, hold their heads up high, and make the right decisions as young men in this world.”