Sports are natural ambassadors. People love to compete and competitors love to win. Nationality, ethnicity, gender demographic status: none of those matters in sports.
Scoreboard! For decades we tried to use the Olympic Games to make a political statement. It didn’t work. When people from different cultures and ideologies meet in athletic competition, it gets down to competition and sportsmanship. That is how it should be in all endeavors.
Ramona High foreign exchange student Vasek Reischl is a student/athlete and a competitor from the Czech Republic. Vasek lettered on the Bulldog varsity tennis team this year. He played singles and doubles and fit in perfectly on the team.
He is the epitome of the term team player.
He was selected as the most inspirational player on the varsity tennis team. He was not a Czech student/athlete. He was a student/athlete from the Czech Republic. There is a difference.
“Everybody has been so nice to me,” he said. “Playing tennis for Ramona was a great experience. Coach (Doug) Failla is a great coach. The team and coach accepted me as a teammate from the very beginning. I knew some of the students from being in class with them. We played great competition. Coach Failla told us from the beginning that we were in a very strong league with very good teams. He encouraged us to work hard and improve and compete. I enjoyed every bit of the experience.”
The feeling was mutual.
“Vasek fit right in from day one,” said Coach Doug Failla. “He is a hard worker and was a pleasure to coach. He is a talented player and an outstanding young man. He is a great teammate. He added greatly to our team. I hope that he enjoyed being on our team as much as we enjoyed having him on our team.”
Vasek is a 17-year-old junior at RHS. When he returns to the Czech Republic, he will have two more years of high school before he graduates.
“School is different in the Czech Republic. We start at 8:30 a.m. and go until 4:30 p.m. from September until June. We don’t have much homework and it is not a part of our grades. Only test results count for grades. In the United States, homework counts on your grade. The relationship between teachers and students is different, too. In the Czech Republic teachers are not as friendly with students and are more formal than they are in the United States.”
Vasek is taking six classes at RHS: English, Spanish, European history, U.S. history, economics and calculus, a difficult class load. In the Czech Republic he took 13 classes last semester: Czech, Spanish, English, chemistry, biology, physics, computer science, social science, history, physical education, art, math and geography.
Vasek plans on continuing his education at the Economic University of Prague and then transferring to UCLA. He plans on going into business.
“Vasek is an excellent economics student,” said his Ramona High economics teacher, Sue Weaver. “He works very hard and plans on working in his family’s business. He has been a pleasure to have in class.”
Vasek started playing tennis when he was 4 years old. There are no interscholastic sports in the Czech Republic, so Vasek plays for the club team Tesla Karlin. His father, Vaclar, is a tennis player as is his 11-year-old sister, Anna. His mother, Eva, does not play tennis.
Vasek has really enjoyed his stay in Ramona with Erik and Jennifer Melzer.
“My host family is the greatest and through them I have had great experiences in America,” he said. “I have been to Utah, Las Vegas, San Francisco, gone to the East Coast, New York, Washington, D.C. We are going to go to Hawaii in July and meet my family there. It has been great.”
Vasek has a slight accent but speaks excellent English. He began learning English in kindergarten, “but I have only been studying seriously for six years. I plan on learning Russian next year. It is close to the Czech language so it will not be that difficult to learn.
“It took me two to three weeks to get used to American English in the classroom and only about a week to understand my friends. There is not that much of a difference in the two cultures. Americans are much more confident. It took longer to adjust to starting school at 7:20 than it did to the language differences.”
Vasek still hears people in his country and in the U..S refer to the Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia, but he has only lived in capitalism and never communism.
“I was worried that because I was from a former communist country that people might not be friendly to me,” he said. “That has not been the case. People have been very kind to me.”
Vasek Reischl has been a student, athlete and an ambassador during his stay in Ramona. He has been an inspiration to more than the tennis team. When athletes from two cultures meet, it gets down to competition and sportsmanship. That is how it should be.