Exchange student uses skills learned in home country to excel in sports

Staff writer

Leo Sontag is no stranger to a life of sports. The exchange student from Brazil has been playing soccer since he could walk, and even spent some time training to play professionally before coming to Hillsboro.

He said the skills he learned at home helped him excel in sports in the U.S.

“It was different and very fun,” he said.

Sontag filled the position of kicker for the football team this season, played basketball, and was one match away from attending state for tennis.

He said his favorite sports to play were tennis and football because he lettered in them.

“I did well kicking because I played soccer at home,” he said. “I really enjoy playing tennis. I learned to play with my dad and brother when I was 4, but after my parents divorced I stopped.”

Sontag picked tennis back up before coming to Kansas, which allowed him to be competitive on the Hillsboro team, without ever playing competitively before.

“I think I could have done better but I did good this season and I’m happy about it,” he said. “I wish I would have qualified for state.”

Sontag was relieved he didn’t qualify after discovering that state tennis was scheduled for the same day as graduation this year. He walked with his fellow seniors Saturday.

On Sunday, Sontag flew home with his mother, who came to Hillsboro to see him graduate. Sontag graduated in Brazil last November, but now that he’s headed home, he’s not sure what his plans are.

“I thought about going back to professional soccer training, but I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve also considered coming back to the states for college and playing soccer there.”

Sontag has already planned his next trip back to Hillsboro and will return in July with his father and brothers.

“I want them to meet my host family, Jeff and Tammy Wintermote, and see where I’ve been staying,” he said.

While there were many things to get used to here in the U.S., the biggest culture shock for Sontag was the size of Hillsboro. Sontag comes from Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil.

“I’m used to being in a town where there is a lot to do,” he said. “That’s why I really liked sports because I thought it would be fun and it was, and it helped me make friends and get to know people.”

Sports also filled his weekends and evenings, leaving Sontag little time to be bored.

Sontag said he has enjoyed his time in Hillsboro and is glad he followed his brothers’ advice to enter the exchange student program.

“My brothers are older than me and all of them did the exchange program, so I knew what to expect, but it was more fun than they made it to be,” he said. “I had a good experience.”

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