WAYNESFIELD â€” Soccer may be known as the international sport, but football done American style also has an international attraction.
Enough of a draw, in fact, that it was the single-most determining factor in what persuaded Ular Tiitma to come to the United States as a foreign exchange student from the small European nation of Estonia.
â€śWe had two clubs in Estonia,â€ť Tiitma said. â€śI played for one of them. That is the main reason I came here. To play football.â€ť
Tiitmaâ€™s skills were immediately put to task by Waynesfield-Goshen Tigers varsity head football coach Gary Spencer and his staff.
Tiitma has been starting at defensive line for the Tigers as they attempt to defend their NWCC conference title from a year ago. This week in practice, Tittman also took some reps at offensive tackle due to injuries and the Tigers inconsistency running on the right side. He was supposed to play both ways for the Tigers during Friday nightâ€™s game.
â€śAt first we thought we may have communications problems with Ular because his English wasnâ€™t the greatest,â€ť Spencer said, â€śbut he definitely has shown he understands what you are saying. We have a regular offensive lineman who is injured and Ular has stepped up for us. We will be able to rest the other kids and use him more sparingly. Ular will be a big help in giving us balance by being able to run better on the right side.â€ť
Tiitma said he is ready to take on the challenge of playing both ways in tonightâ€™s game at Ridgemont.
â€śIt is a challenge, but I like challenges,â€ť Tiitma said. â€śI think the biggest thing is preparing mentally.â€ť
The football team suffered a misstep last week as it was upset by the Lehman Catholic Cavaliers, but Tiitma said the team has turned things up a notch in practice before they squared of with the Ridgemont Golden Gophers, who are involved along with the Tigers in a four-way mix for first place in the conference.
â€śWe learned you have to practice hard to keep winning,â€ť Tiitma said. â€śThis time, we are ready.â€ť
Tiitma also played basketball and was a small forward and shooting guard on a club team in Estonia. He plans to play for the Tigers this upcoming season.
For now, Tiitma is staying with Robin and Carrie Funk in Waynesfield, along with their two daughters. The Funks have two other grown children not living at home.
Tiitma said adjusting to America has not been a difficult experience. He has a brother along with his parents in his home country.
â€śI am having a lot of fun here, so I am not missing home much at all,â€ť Tiitma said. â€śThe thing I notice most is the food and the eating habits are much different. Also everything is much cheaper. Food and clothes are a lot cheaper.â€ť
After Tiitma finishes school in Waynesfield-Goshen High School and returns home this coming June, he has two more years of high school left before he graduates. He said one of the biggest differences he notices is in education, as they seem to be about one year behind where he was in Estonia. He said he is learning math now at Waynesfield-Goshen High School that he learned last year.
After high school, he said he plans to attend a university at home and study something in the engineering field, or a profession that relies heavily on math . Before starting college he will be required to serve an eight-month or 11-month term in the military.
â€śI will definitely come back to visit someday though,â€ť Tiitma said. â€śThis is like my second home.â€ť