An invisible player

During their first press conferences, a great deal of new coaches stress the need to build a team through dialogue between the coaching staff and the players.And here comes the question: how am I to make this dialogue effective if half of my players do not understand me?

Professionalization of sport is manifested, e.g. in the free movement of players, coaches or entire training staffs. As a result of this process it is necessary to hire interpreters and translators (particularly the former ones) who play an increasingly important role in the functioning of a sports team, of which we, as sports enthusiasts, rarely care to think.

Acclimatization of a coach or a player is not just merely getting used to a new team, but it also involves getting used to a new cultural or language environment. This is very important in the case of those susceptible to psychological pressure which can hinder the exercise of their profession. Therefore, the role of a sports interpreter is to provide a football player (or any other athlete) with conditions ensuring that he can focus on the game, and not getting over cultural differences and obstacles associated with a new language.

Thus an interpreter’s assistance is necessary not only during training sessions or games, but also in everyday activities, such as shopping, eating out or taking the child to the doctor. An interpreter serves as a guide to a new country, its customs and culture. An interpreter has to, on the one hand, assist the player, and on the other, make sure that his acclimatization process includes also learning the basics of the new language and getting familiar with the culture of the new country. Therefore, the interpreter cannot relieve the player in everything. An athlete who does not engage in cultural education at all will fail to become a genuine part of the team, which will adversely affect their form and the performance of the entire team.

Interpreters accompany sports teams all the time – during games, briefings before games, press conferences, training camps and trips. What is particularly difficult for them are motivational speeches delivered by coaches. Here we do not deal with interpreting only, as the message must be delivered in a way that will make it have the possibly strongest effect on players. Therefore, the interpreter must imitate the coach, use similar wording and emphasize the same elements of the speech as the coach does, while remembering, however, to use appropriate motivation techniques.

Bilingualism is thus one of several requirements that a sports interpreter needs to satisfy. Being familiar with the cultures of the two countries concerned is another one. Obviously we cannot forget about strictly sports knowledge, which includes being familiar with a specific jargon, the history of a given discipline, current statistics and the situation on the transfer markets. An interpreter needs thus to be an enthusiast who has knowledge comparable to that of a sports historian.

As mentioned above, interpreters accompany teams or individual players in their everyday lives. They are hired also by sports organizations, such as the IOC and FIFA. In such cases, these are, however, rather translators specializing in the international sports law.

As we can see, the profession of a sports interpreter or translator can take different form. It is important, however, that those who want to take up interpreting or translating in the area of sport remember about choosing a specific specialization and – above all – passion. The interpreter has to be with the team all the time, but has to work being unseen, which is not an easy task. We should also bear in mind that sports interpreters can have a considerable influence on the performance of a team or an individual player, and not everyone is predisposed to work under such pressure.

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