Words: Federica Frew. Images: RJB Sports
Two years ago, I boarded a plane to the USA and begun my four-year college soccer journey. May 2017 officially marked the completion of my second year as a communications student at American International College (AIC) and a proud member of its Women’s Soccer team – the Yellowjackets.
When I first arrived at AIC I would say the rudest awakening of my time so far was pre-season. Since experiencing it first hand, I’ve talked to some Australian girls who have played in America too and they have validated my feelings, but you really don’t know what you’re in for until you get stuck into it yourself.
Picture it: A brutal period of 2-3 weeks in the scorching New England sun, training mostly twice per day, running more than I’ve ever run in my life. For a girl not inclined for sprints or long-distance running, I have been forced to work on the weakest areas of my game.
However, I have learnt to love what I have most struggled with – across the board. From the full-on training schedule, to early morning classes, and to the intensity of our short season, I have embraced these struggles and learnt so much about myself.
I can safely say that a college pre-season exemplifies what’s great about playing a college sport; total immersion in your sport, constantly hanging out with your teammates, while being consistently challenged to be the best you can be in a competitive environment.
Coming to this opportunity was no simple decision. Nearing the end of high school, I along with pretty much every other year 12 in the country experienced the tough process of deciding what path to take following graduation.
For those who juggle sports and school, this process can become even tougher. Through my time playing soccer in both Sydney and Melbourne I have witnessed many struggle to find the right balance between playing a sport they love and setting themselves up for life.
Luckily for me, upon graduating high school I was presented with an opportunity to do both – play soccer and continue my education. The opportunity to be treated like a proper athlete and give myself an actual career has been pretty cool to say the least. NCAA athletes are forbidden to be paid, but the reward of playing college sports is that you come out of it with a university degree and memories for a lifetime.
As I see my friends in the W-League and NPLW struggle to juggle their time between work, tertiary education and soccer, I realise I am blessed over here in my situation. I still train every day, play up to three games a week, and – most importantly – study. Although we are college athletes, our education is the number one priority, and our coaches make sure we are keeping up our grades and attendance to an optimum standard.
If you are considering a move to a college in the United States, I would highly recommend it. There are a number of agencies that can help you find a spot on a college roster, and if you are persistent, thorough and diligent in communicating with these schools, you will give yourself more than enough chance to be picked up and given this opportunity – as I did.
I could not be a bigger advocate for the whole experience. Living with your friends, away from home, and experiencing a whole new side to life that we don’t get to see here in Australia – it is such a great opportunity for athletes looking to play overseas and study at the same time.
I would be lying if I said it doesn’t get lonely, and homesickness runs rife, but most days are fine. It’s in these down periods that I learn more about myself than I ever have, and home will always be there waiting for me as I continue to make incredible memories doing something not a lot of people can say they’ve done.
I have come to realise – slowly but surely – that being offered the opportunity to play college soccer in America has been one of the most challenging and simultaneously rewarding thing to happen to me. Come August I am so excited to get pre-season and season number three underway, work on my studies, make more memories, and continue to have a ball.