Early starts, full-time training, and roasting hot weather - that was my first month in the United States.
It's been a month since I switched my hometown of Airdrie for Union, Missouri in midwest America, where I've started to attend East Central College.
My initial experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I have effectively been living my dream as a professional athlete, training five days a week, whilst studying to earn a degree. It has been everything that I hoped it would be.
- My day usually begins just before 7am, when I get ready and eat breakfast before leaving for the college just before 8am.
- Depending on the day I either go straight to my first class, go to the library to get some homework done (we are required as student-athletes to spend at least five hours studying in the library), or head to the gym to get a workout in. Following that, I go to the rest of that day’s classes. My classes finish, at the latest, by 1:20 pm on any given day.
- After that, it’s a trip back home to eat lunch and relax before our team training session. After completing our Covid-19 symptoms check we head to training which starts at 3:15 pm on weekdays, unless we have a friendly, in which case we get the following day off.
- While it varies from day-to-day, our training sessions usually consist of a warm-up, followed by groups of rondo boxes, some tactical work on shape, attacking scenarios, then finishing our session with a 10 v 10 game.
- One thing which is instantly noticeable about training in America is the obscene heat some days, which leads to increased water breaks, but like everything else you get used to it.
- Post-training, we have a team cool-down and stretch, then back home. Once we arrive home at around 5:15pm, it’s time for a shower then onto dinner. From about 6-10:30 pm I have free time which is usually taken up by keeping up with homework and studying. After that, it’s time for bed.
On Monday 14th (or 9/14 as they say), we played our first friendly against Missouri Baptist University’s reserve side. After my normal morning/afternoon routine we all arrived at the college for 1:45pm where we had our temperatures taken prior to going on the bus.
After having our temperatures taken again on departing the bus, we entered the changing rooms at the superb, newly renovated Missouri Baptist University Stadium.
As we were warming up, one of the first things that caught my eye was the giant scoreboard in the corner of the stadium, which was showing a countdown to kick-off, something a bit different which you don’t see at your standard Saturday morning game. After a decent team performance and a goal for myself, we ran-out 3-1 winners in extremely warm conditions.
After re-boarding the bus, we went for our inaugural post-match meal together, as we continue to gel as a squad. Following that we re-boarded the bus for the hour-long journey back to the college, followed by the short trip home.
There are definitely some differences between collegiate soccer and youth football back home.
The general professionalism and seriousness in which matches are taken came as a pleasant change, as before the game we were all shown and sent a copy of the starting line-up, with our attacking shape, defensive shape, and set-piece duties.
A slightly stranger one is the way in which the clock works. In college soccer, the clock counts down from 45 minutes, rather than the traditional counting up. The clock is also paused by the referee for any lengthy pause to the game. When the clock runs out in each half there is a loud buzzer sound signalling the end of the half/game. Most teams also bring large squads to matches, as roll-on subs are allowed, so you get used to seeing multiple substitutions at one-time.
The thing which I’ve enjoyed most so far has to be training five times a week, as playing football every day has always been a dream for me, and now that we’re training every day I am loving it and can feel myself improving at a faster rate. Another great thing is the on-campus gym, which is free to use at any time, and using it is a great way to improve my on-field performance.
After a great first month, I can’t wait to see what the coming month offers. With another friendly lined up, continuing to train full-time, and more great weather expected what’s not to like?