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Think Global, Act Local: Have You Met Moorhead High Soccer Coach Marc Wilson?

Warm Greetings from the Land of 1,000 Hills, aka RWANDA.

I hope you are starting 2023 healthy and filled with high energy!

As we all make New Year resolutions, I wanted to connect with a member of our FM community who wears multiple hats and impacts the lives of leaders of tomorrow: our beloved youth. I have been fortunate to meet Coach Marc Wilson at Moorhead High School (MHS) as I have had the honor to be part of the MHS Soccer coaching staff since the Summer of 2021. I asked Coach Wilson to introduce himself:

“I am married to the incomparable Sunny Clark and have two daughters, 15 and 12, who consistently surprise and delight. I care a lot about my job teaching English at Horizon Middle School. I also love coaching soccer with the Moorhead High School boy’s team and basketball at the middle school. My faith is an important part of me, and I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have lived in Moorhead for 11 years and before that, in New York City, Japan, Utah, Belgium and Indiana, where I grew up. I enjoy many hobbies, especially travel, eating, sports and embarrassing my children.”

Coach Wilson is one of the welcoming faces to anyone entering Horizon Middle School in Moorhead or the Spud Soccer field at Moorhead High School.

Next time you see him, ask him about one of his many anecdotes about traveling the globe.

Until we meet again: Asalam Alaykum!

– Cyusa

Where do you call home?

Home is a funny word and I’m never sure how to answer the question, “Where are you from?” Right now, home is definitely Moorhead, where I’ve lived for over 11 years, but I’ve been lucky to call a lot of different areas home. I was born in Strasbourg, France, though my family is American, and I grew up in West Lafayette, IN. I have also felt at home in Provo, UT; Belgium; Shikoku, Japan; Costa Mesa, CA; and New York, NY.

What is the story behind your passion for traveling the world?

I feel a bit awkward answering this question because I do feel like there is much of the world out there that I have not experienced and because I recognize that my opportunity to see some interesting and relatively far-flung places in our world is the result of uncommon privilege.

As a kid, my dad brought us along on work trips that extended beyond the usual tourist trips into stays just long enough to begin to get the sense of rhythm of regular life in a foreign environment. Along with the famous sites, I had the opportunity to observe the mundane differences that can really color the way a place feels. I remember returning to America and awakening to the idea that the world did not have to be the way it was in Indiana.

As an adult, I have continued to carve out opportunities for myself and my family to be in different places. I love to visit the top attractions, but what appeals most to me are the quiet moments where I can feel myself slipping into some adapted habits of everyday life in a new place. And, if I’m especially observant and attuned to the spot, sometimes I can get glimpses of what everyday life feels like for a local. So why do I have a passion for traveling? I love being able to challenge and reevaluate my perspective on the world and how to live in it, and I think that immersing oneself in different contexts is a powerful (and privileged) way to do that.

What has been your experience taking on the two roles of teacher and coach?

I have always been an 8th grade English teacher first and a coach second, but I have loved coaching more than I ever thought I would. I don’t know that I’m a particularly skilled coach in terms of winning and losing, but I relish the opportunity to help my players have a powerful experience together. I love teaching English because the ability to communicate clearly can be such an empowering skill for young people. Sports is a very different kind of empowerment, but when the circumstances are right, the lessons learned and felt through team play can be just as empowering.

I love coaching at the entry level for our high school boys’ soccer team. Our team draws players with vastly different backgrounds, both culturally and in terms of soccer ability. We have players who come to us with extensive club experience and knowledge of training methods and tactics, we have players who are exceptional athletes physically but have limited in their soccer training, and we have players who have played in parks with their buddies for years and can make the ball stick to their feet like it’s velcro but have never played an official game and don’t even know some basic rules. Needless to say, we are a hot mess at the beginning of the season. Seeing them figure each other out, learning to play to each other’s strengths and cover for each other’s weaknesses, learning to communicate constructively and positively and hopefully facilitating some of that process as the coach, is a real privilege. I think it’s also a beautiful metaphor for the way our community can embrace diversity.

What are some misconceptions about learning foreign languages?

I speak French reasonably fluently and have some small abilities in Japanese and Spanish. I think maybe some Americans who have been in the country for multiple generations believe that learning another language is impossibly difficult and not relevant to their lives. I surely would disagree with both of those. Learning another language (even poorly learning it) can provide another way to interpret the world. And learning even just a little bit of other languages can really facilitate relationships with our multilingual community members. I was encouraged in a training session to learn a phrase or two in the language of my students, and I’ve found that it can really strengthen my relationship with my students and players.

Can you share some of the work you do in the community? How can others get involved?

In addition to coaching, I feel constantly tugged to be more involved in the community as I learn about my students’ lives, but I don’t make as much time as I should to volunteer. I do donate blood regularly and I would encourage anyone who qualifies to at least try it out. I also like to go with my family when we have a free afternoon to the Great Plains Food Bank. They are very organized and make it easy for us to have a good experience—I usually leave feeling like I have learned more than I have helped.

I also think a great way to get involved is by forming some connections through a group. For me, my faith community (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) provides me opportunities to come into contact with neighbors whose lives often differ significantly from mine. In these situations, these people can often be helpful and sometimes, I can help them.

As a Citizen of the World, what is the next problem you are trying to solve?

Ha—I don’t pretend that I can solve any problem beyond half of the problems I create! I do feel constantly anxious about the threats of climate change, racism and poverty, but I don’t have any novel ideas about solving them. I do believe in the power and worth of each person doing what they feel is best and right within their sphere of influence.

What is your vision for 2030 for the Fargo-Moorhead community?

I hope that we can more fully embrace the increasingly multicultural nature of our community. My vision is that, like our Moorhead soccer team, we will learn to see the value and strengths that our neighbors possess and feel enough generosity to support our neighbors in their weaknesses. When I have taken advantage of opportunities like this with folks with different backgrounds from me in our community, I’ve found rich rewards in perspective, knowledge, food and a greater sense of worth and well-being.

Written by Alexandre Cyusa

Alexandre Cyusa came to the FM area in the fall of 2010 to attend Concordia College. Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, Cyusa has lived in Switzerland, Ethiopia, Guinea and France. His traveling experiences have helped him in making this world a smaller and simpler place to live in. He currently works for Folkways and is interested in community development and nurturing global citizenship.

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