International Players and College Soccer
With the PSP Premier Camp fast approaching, I wanted to take some time out to let our international players who are considering playing college soccer, know what to expect from America ahead of our professional/college soccer showcase camp. Playing college soccer in America is a little different to soccer back in Europe, and six years ago I was in the same situation as a lot of international players are currently in. I was planning to move to America to play soccer, but I was not fully sure what to expect. I was under the impression that the standard of soccer wouldn’t be very high, and because I had played at a high level back in England, I thought that I would come to America and it would be easy for me. Not only was I wrong about the standard, but I was also surprised by a few things.
Once I arrived at my college I started to meet the rest of the team, the majority of which were international players, and had all had some experience playing for professional teams in their home countries. After the first training session, I realized the standard was going to be much higher than I had first thought. My first piece of advice is do not under, or overestimate the strength of your own team, or an opposing team when playing college soccer in America.
My second piece of advice is to be super fit when you arrive for pre-season training. Before moving to America I had been through a number of pre seasons, which usually consisted of a long run in the first couple of sessions, then straight into playing, with a few fitness drills thrown in. When I arrived in America I was thrust into 3 training sessions per day. One morning session which was usually a fitness test (timed mile, timed 2 mile, yo-yo test, etc), an afternoon technical session, and an evening session where we played inter-squad 11 v 11. I loved the first few days and flew through them, however, after a few days my legs were always sore, I was always tired, and the heat was killing me. For the first week my daily routine consisted of: train, eat, sleep, train, eat, sleep, train, eat, and sleep.
Once preseason was over the games started. At this point it is worth noting that the facilities out here are amazing. My college had two full sided training fields, and one game field with dug outs and a stand. We had our own gym just for athletes, and also an indoor pool, the facilities were similar to those of a professional club back home. Anyway, back to the game, and a note about me getting awfully confused with the subbing rule. At the college level, you can be subbed off in the first half, and go back on in the second half, and then proceed to be brought on and off again in the second half as much as you like. Just 30 minutes into my first game I noticed we were making a few subs, this surprised me. My surprise then turned to anger as I was one of the players being brought off. I stormed off past my coach and sat on the bench, turned to another player and asked why the coach had brought me off; he laughed and told me the rule about substitutions. I calmed down and went back out in the second half. Beware of the substitution rule, or it will make you look stupid as it did me!
Once the season got going, a few other things surprised me. Back home I had been used to playing one game a week, every Saturday, with the occasional mid-week game thrown in for good measure. In America this was slightly different. Obviously, America is a much bigger place than Europe, so when we played away games we squeezed two games into one trip and played one game on Saturday, and another on Sunday. When I first found out about this I was a little nervous that I would be nowhere near fit enough to play in both games, especially in the heat. I thought that I would maybe play one full game, and then be rested for the next.
I was wrong, we had two tough games back to back, and my coach expected me to play 180 minutes of soccer in two days. I was able to get through a good amount of both games, and remember playing about 160 minutes in total, which I was happy with, and once I had got the first double header under my belt, I was flying! Or at least I felt like I was flying until we played out a 0-0 draw a few weeks later with a rival team at 4pm in the blazing sun. The game finished and we couldn’t find a winner, I was knackered to say the least, and began taking my boots and shin guards off. I was ready to drink my own body weight in water, and sleep on the bus on the way home, until our coach started giving us a team talk about how we were going to beat this team in overtime. Overtime? After a regular league game? Are you kidding? Nobody told me! It turns out that in America they don’t like draws, so they play an extra two halves of 10 minutes with the golden goal rule. The golden goal rule makes it exciting, but I can assure you, not many of the players wanted to play an extra 20 minutes that day in the blazing heat. Beware of the overtime rule!
Playing college soccer in America is tough, you have to be fit, and on top of your game every day in training, or someone will take your spot; you have to get used to the slight differences in the game and surroundings, and you have to do it quickly. The season runs from August to December, so if you waste time getting settled in, you will find yourself wondering where your first year went. Reading this post should help any international player prepare for college soccer in America. If you are prepared, and work hard at it you will reap the rewards. A successful college soccer player in America is looked upon in the same light as a big time professional soccer player in Europe is, people will make a big deal out of you and will make you feel special.
The info in this post will help all international players who are attending our Premier Camp. It will put you in a good position to excel not only throughout the week and in the college soccer showcase games towards the end of the week, but will come in handy once you find a college team.
Good luck to all of you out there who are currently considering playing college soccer in America, and to those of you who are attending our Premier Camp, I look forward to meeting you.
Sam Fairhurst – ex college soccer player