Georgia school gets ahead by using Spanish at line of scrimmage

A few years ago, Cross Keys (Ga.) High's football team was struggling with its snap cadence at the line of scrimmage. Worried that his team would face a gaggle of penalties -- or that simplified cadences would be too easy for opponents to anticipate -- Cross Keys coach David Radford knew something had to change. Then it hit him: Nowhere does it say that a cadence on the line of scrimmage needs to be in English.

Overnight, Radford changed all of the team's cadences to Spanish, and the program has never switched back.

"They thought it was a joke, being that we had some kids who didn't know Spanish," Radford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell. "I told them not to worry, that it will be easy to pick up. And it has."

Radford told Carvell that the transition was so smooth because a majority of Cross Keys' players are of Hispanic heritage. The school is located in eastern Brookhaven, one of Atlanta's most diverse neighborhoods, and the Cross Keys football team features players from 10 -- yes, 10 -- different countries.

So, how does a Spanish cadence work? According to the Journal-Constitution, it sounds something like this:

A typical Cross Keys snap sequence goes something like:

"Abajo" (down).

"Listo" (set).


Cross Keys coaches will also use Spanish to yell last-second instructions or adjustments from the sidelines.

The switch to Spanish has done more than just help keep Cross Keys in sync, too. Opponents are often confused by the commands, and at least one referee has issued a verbal warning to Radford about using inappropriate language on the field before being told the players were just speaking Spanish.

"We had a game where the official warned us about the language," Radford told the Journal-Constitution. "I asked ‘What did they say?' And when he told me, I was like ‘No, they are speaking Spanish. We do our cadence in Spanish.'

"The referee apologized, saying, ‘I've never seen anything like that in my life.' After the game, he came over to talk. He was curious to how long we've been doing it and what made us do it. And I was like, ‘Go look at our kids. The bulk of them are Hispanic.'"

If there was any chance of Cross Keys switching back to traditional cadences, that's minimized by yet another unforeseen advantage of using Spanish: The switch has made American football a much more popular option at a school where futbol (soccer) is king.

"It allows Cross Keys in a round-about way to bridge American football with our large Hispanic population," Radford told Carvell.

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