QUINCY -- Amid the culture shock and daily battles overcoming the unknown, something special seems to be happening at John Wood Community College.
Camaraderie is being built.
Two weeks ago, the JWCC men's soccer team began practicing with a roster about half full of players who either played high school soccer together or previously trained together. The other half were coming from around the globe.
"I've learned a lot through the adjustment," said Daniel Kellerman, a freshman midfielder from Cape Town, South Africa. "There were a lot of things that we had to handle first, but we handled it quite well."
There's more to handle as the program's first game since 1995 rapidly approaches.
The roster has been somewhat in flux with new additions every two or three days as players from foreign countries arrive. The Trail Blazers will face St. Charles Community College at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Flinn Stadium in the season opener having added a player as recently as Friday.
"They are potentially impact players," JWCC coach Bob Cowman said.
Still, each addition brings a new challenge.
"I'm learning you have to push the reset button for the whole group," Cowman said. "It isn't as simple as, well, they'll merge into the traffic. It's a like having a new child in your home every three days. You can't say, ‘Yeah, come on, just join.' You have to acclimate them, and they have to acclimate to you. That affects your training."
And the camaraderie.
Cowman isn't as concerned about the Trail Blazers' fitness level. Two weeks worth of two-a-day practices and the fact a majority of players have completed the 6-minute mile challenge has him convinced JWCC can run with anyone.
The challenge is getting players who grew up playing different styles of soccer to quickly adapt to all playing the same style tactically.
"I'm pleased with our progress," Cowman said. "What we're trying to do is synergize or connect on the field. That's been our focus. Some things you can't rush or bake too fast. It's like making a pie or a pot luck. Sometimes you just have to be patient and let it set."
With that in mind, the players have spent as vast amount of their free time together, including using their coaches' homes as places to congregate.
"I think we're doing well because of how often we see each other," said freshman forward Brett Stiles, a Quincy High School product. "When we're not training, Coach has us at (assistant coach Eric Stratman's) doing pool stretches and just hanging out.
"We're spending a lot of time with each other and enjoying each other's company. That matters."
There is so inherent connections, too.
Stiles is one of eight QHS products on the roster and one of several sophomores taking advantage of the opportunity to play again. Stiles, a 2013 QHS graduate, signed to play at East Central Community College but retains two years of eligibility. Blake Herman, a 2014 QHS graduate, played one season at Missouri-St. Louis before taking two years off.
"I think it's a blast," Stiles said. "I'm lucky enough to get to come back and play a second year of college soccer and kind of redo my experience and live it all over again. I'm super excited and I think the guys here have the same energy."
There's no reason for that to change. The Trail Blazers went 1-1 in their exhibition games, losing 2-0 to Central Methodist and beating Southeastern Community College 5-3, but they know there is still a lot to prove.
"You can measure our connection after your first game, but I think there's a good team spirit and there's something here," Kellerman said. "I told Coach Stratman we have something special. We will see after the first game, but I am very hopeful and very excited.
"Our fitness is good. We just have to work on chemistry. We have to play as a team, play as one. Everyone has to know their role. With that, nothing will deter us from wherever we want to go."