Georgia College has 11 international athletes between three of its varsity programs. The athletes range from Iceland to Italy and have contributed to the success of GC athletics for some time.
Most international athletes end up at GC by word-of-mouth recruiting with efforts to further their athletic careers while also attending university, an option not available to many athletes in their home country.
Junior Matias Chiappero, a member of the golf team, from Rafael, Argentina, came to GC after only starting to play golf at age 16.
Chiappero says he chose GC on the recommendation of Nicolas Falkinoff, a fellow Argentinean who played for GC at the time.
“The biggest adjustment I had was getting used to the southern drawl,” Chiappero said. “Most of my teammates had it so badly, I would just sit there and stare at them when they talked. I couldn’t understand them.”
Head coach of the golf team Patrick Garrett said that while international athletes are a major part of the athletic program, it has been waning in recent years.
“It has been harder and harder to get recruits,” Garrett said. “They all are out- of-state students, so getting the money right and keeping a competitive offer isn’t as easy as it used to be.”
Garrett echoed the sentiments of other athletic department officials, saying, “Georgia College really puts an emphasis on the ‘holistic approach’ to recruiting, you know, creating that well rounded student-athlete.”
Steve Barsby, head coach of both the men’s and women’s tennis teams, said that while academics come first, it is important to remember that athletes want to come to a program that is completive.
“You know, for the women’s team we try to push it as a program that competes nationally, that has been to the NCAA tournament 23 years in a row,” Barsby said. “I believe we’re the best academic university in the conference, but we make it a point to compete athletically as well.”
GC women’s soccer also has three international athletes: Ragnheidur Bjarnadottir and Unnbjorg Omarsdottir, both from Iceland, and Renee Mike, from Trinidad.
Athletes from Spain, Italy, France, Brazil and Germany also play other sports for the Bobcats.
Junior Paula Garriga, a tennis player from Centelles, Spain, transferred to GC from the University of New Orleans.
“It was just the vibe here,” Garriga said. “My English wasn’t the best, but I just really liked the vibe at Georgia College.”