|Making it over the pond|
Introducing our blogger:
Gary McColl has spent the past three seasons playing on a soccer scholarship in the United States. He is about to graduate from university with a degree in Exercise Science and has ambitions of coaching professionally. Gary spent his teenage years playing in the South East Region Youth FA leagues before earning his scholarship to the States and has a wealth of knowledge of both playing and coaching in his home country. He is living proof that you don't have to be playing at the top level in Scotland to give yourself a full-time college playing career over the pond.
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Entry 4 | 22nd January 2011
And so my time in the U.S. has finally come to an end (at least for the time being). After two and a half years, three seasons, and finishing off my degree in Exercise Science, I have completed what I originally set out to do. In all honesty I’m not sure whether I set out to get a degree or just play football in another part of the world but either way I’ve accomplished both.
The past two and a half years have been quite simply fantastic for me for various reasons. I had the chance to visit some amazing places while I was in the States (Florida for Spring Break two years in a row was possibly my favourite destination) and meet some truly great people who I can safely say I will remain friends with for the rest of my life.
Having had the chance to train every day while out there and better myself as a player, I feel more able to step up and play at a higher level. I’m now looking to find a team either at home in Scotland or possibly abroad with the view of furthering my career to even greater heights. Without embarking on my adventure in the States this would probably never have happened and I’m grateful to the coaching staff and team mates out there who helped me dramatically improve my game.
I’m now at the stage where I am looking to take my playing career to the next level and I’m confident I’ll find something somewhere in the world. Playing and training every day really has improved me as a player but that’s not quite the best thing that I feel I got out of my time in the States. Without trying to get too deep or sentimental, the opportunity to meet so many different people from so many different places around the world is something I will cherish for a very long time. It has also opened up many possibilities in life as I now have contacts on all corners of the world. Whether it be for a job opportunity, or an exotic holiday, spending time in the States really has opened up a whole window of opportunities for me and that’s something I hold in high regard.
I guess that at the end of all this, what I can say from experience is that pursuing a soccer scholarship in the United States is a truly fantastic opportunity to not only improve your football as well as your education, but it really can give you the experience of a lifetime and I hope it’s not too long before I’m back over there at least for a holiday to see some old faces and familiar sights.
Entry 3 | 7th December 2010
My last entry discussed how my team had made it to the first round of the national championships, a feat our team had never accomplished before. Unfortunately it was as far as we got as we lost 3-0 to Hastings, a team ranked 3rd in the nation. One point which gives some ease of mind is that Hastings went on to win the national tournament, scoring 5 goals in each game from the quarter-finals onwards. Although there are a few different reasons as to why we lost, when all factors are considered, it was clear that we did not turn up on the day and that the better team won. However, one big reason that was obvious and quite clear to see, was how much more athletic and sharper this team from Nebraska was. A team comprised full of Americans comfortably beat a team full of British, Brazilians, Spanish, Columbians, Hondurans, French, and Serbians who all bring great things to a team like passing, passion, technique etc. The one thing my team did not have however, was the sheer athleticism that Hastings had.
Having played over here for 3 seasons now, I have regularly played against teams full of Americans who might not have quite the same skill or mind set compared to players from other countries, but one thing they do have is the ability to run and run and run. I have thought about this a few times since I have been playing out here and I have realised that the amount of fitness work that is included in training for teams in the States is considerably higher when compared to teams back home. I'm not saying that if you are the fittest player in a team then you must be the best player as well, but football is so much easier to play when you are in truly great shape. I understand that for youth players there are so many other things that have to be learnt and taught but one thing that is not stressed enough is fitness. For a lot of teams in Scotland fitness is done in pre-season and then never truly looked at again during the season. I'm of the opinion that while working on tactics and technique, why not work on fitness as well. Everyone knows of players in the
past who were not necessarily the fittest of players but were technically gifted (the underrated Matt Le Tissier comes to mind) but nowadays these days are few and farbetween. I believe this is because fitness is a much larger part of today's game and it is something that has not quite been recognised in Scotland as of yet.
The thing about increasing stamina or speed is that it can be improved in your own time. It doesn't have to be done in training (although I do feel it should be incorporated when the chance arises), in a previous entry I spoke about putting that extra bit of work in in-between training sessions, why not spend 30 minutes going for a good paced run or using cones and doing some shuttles to help increase speed and acceleration before working on some ball skills. At the end of the day if being a fitter player allows you to accomplish more both in training and in games, why wouldn't you spend time to give you that advantage. My experiences just a couple weeks ago that even if you aren't the most technically gifted player, being in tremendous physical shape and having a good work ethic can take you far; just like the hard working Hastings team who are now National Champions.
Entry 2 | 22nd November 2010
I write this weeks blog from the comfort of my hotel room in Nebraska as my team have qualified for the first round of the NAIA national tournament for the first time in the teams history. Despite all that is going on around us just now and the preferential treatment our team seems to be getting left, right, and centre, I can't help but think how lucky I am to be here. I have put a lot of hard work in to get where Iam, and although I am not playing at a professional level just now, I hope that if I continue to work hard I may still go even further in this sport.
I think back to many years ago when I was a youth; playing in the South East Region Leagues in Scotland, and was told at the age of 11, along with the majority of my team, that we would not be getting kept on with the team for the following season as a whole new team was being brought in, in our place. I remember at the time feeling so upset that I was not considered good enough to play for this team any longer despite having a successful season that year. However, over a decade later, I am now receiving a scholarship to not only educate myself but also getting the opportunity to train and play football every day in a different part of the world.
The point behind this blog is to show that no matter what happens, being released from a team or being told that you are not good enough, is not a good enough reason to give up on the dreams you may have. Being released from a team is not the end of the world, you should take it as an opportunity to work even harder to better your game, turn your weaknesses into strengths and become an ever better player. Although I experienced being released a long time ago, the point behind my story still remains, no matter what age you are, being released from a team does not mean your career in football is over. Take such disappointments on the chin and do what you can to improve yourself in order to get where you want to go.
Entry 1 | 15th November 2010
“I could’ve made it.” The infamous quote of anyone not in their teenage years who thinks they have a bit of talent; funnily enough it’s usually said around the local pub with a pint in one hand. A huge number of people play football from a young age, all dreaming of becoming the next big star, but in reality, the number of players that actually make it professional is pretty small. People may argue that it’s all about natural ability, but in truth, hard work, dedication, motivation, and perseverance can get you further than just natural
Many people see the glitz and glamour of being a professional footballer but what many people do not see is the effort that gets put in from a very early age in regards to training and trying to improve. It’s no coincidence that some of the best players in theworld have stories of how when they were young they spent hours practicing by themselves or with a friend or family member. Take David Beckhamfor example. He would hang a tyre from a crossbar and spend hours at a time trying to shoot a ball through it, now, at the age of 35, he is still one of the best free-kick takers in the world. It’s unfortunate that many players do not realise just how important this hard work and effort is until it’s too late, myself included.
Many teams in the youth leagues around Scotland train once, maybe twice a week, with a game at the weekend; this leaves a lot of time for a player to put in extra work to improve their ability. A lot can be achieved with nothing more than a ball and some enthusiasm. When others are out doing whatever teenagers do, practicing your control, shooting, or technique in your back garden or local park on a Friday night can be the difference between making it and not. Being able to consistently find time to work on aspects of your game that need improving really can be the difference between having a playing career in football or sitting in a pub ten years from now and thinking...”what could have been?”