What it’s like to be a college athlete
California State Universityssä jo kolme vuotta opiskellut Sofia ei olisi pienenä tyttönä voinut uskoa, että jonain päivänä hän pelaisi samalla kentällä jalkapalloa kuin lajin legendat. Unelmoinnista ei kuitenkaan tule luopua. Ikinä ei voi tietää, mihin tie voikaan viedä tulevaisuudessa.
”I remember growing up with soccer and having hopes and dreams for where it would take me in the future. I can say that I might have doubted the fact that one day I would be training on the same field than legends like Beckham and Zlatan. But never say never, right? Three years ago I moved to the US to play soccer for a university in California. It’s crazy how a simple passion you’ve had since childhood can take you so far in life. The transition to playing in the US has changed the game for me, both on and off the field.
In America, college sports are big business. That said, everything is done professionally and the facilities are top-notch. Here, athletics are a part of my life as a student, meaning that I am able to play soccer and also have time to focus on school. California’s weather and the perfect grassy fields are a luxury for a girl that is used to playing in the snow in Finland. The cherry on top is that our team gets to play in LA Galaxy’s stadium every season. The capacity of the stadium is 30,000 (just the perfect size to fit our fans). All of our games are also broadcasted online, but it’s still a mystery for my parents how to watch them back in Finland.
The soccer season in college goes from August until November. The season is super compact and it feels like it’s over before it even started! We play two games per week and 18 games in total. On top of that we practice four times a week on the field and in the weight room. I have to say that the pace is crazy and there is not much time for recovery (or maybe I’m getting too old to keep up with the youngsters in our team). The season is definitely the time when your best friend will be an ice bath and foam roller.
The part that I enjoy the most about soccer is traveling. The season is set up so that we play at our home stadium every other week and then travel the following week. What’s exciting is that we get to fly around the States to play against different Universities. There are some places I wouldn’t ever have visited if it wasn’t for soccer, like Oregon and Utah.
But where there is good, there’s also bad. I would love to make some small changes to the schedule of the season. The first thing on my list to go would be doubledays/two-a-days —whatever you prefer to call it. That’s the time at the start of the season before the games kick off. We train two times a day and do a lot of testing. In other words, we practically kill ourselves before the season has even started. This is the American approach to practice that is supposed to lead to athletic success. For me it on the other it leads to nothing other than fatigue.
Right now we are in off season, which means that we practice every weekday. It’s the perfect time to build our fitness and get awkward soccer tan lines. In addition we play scrimmages every now and then.
But now the real question: how did I manage to get a scholarship to play in California? The great thing about your 20’s is that, for most people, you have a lot of freedom and flexibility. There is nothing tying you down just yet—and that’s why it is the prime time in your life to do whatever you want. My dream was to pursue a college degree overseas while playing the sport I love. However, there is a lot of work and planning that goes into applying to a college. Since the educational and legal system is so different in the US, it was a good idea to have someone to guide me along the way. Universal Players Global is a company in Finland specialized in providing help and their expertise for students that are seeking opportunities abroad. If you are curious about the possibilities for studying around the world, they are a great place to start.
I know from an experience that leaving your family and home country might seem terrifying at first. But a bigger risk is not taking any risk at all. I would encourage anyone who is thinking of moving abroad to at least give it a try! You might learn that it is not for you. But that’s no big deal, you haven’t lost anything—you’re only one adventure richer. However, you might learn that it was exactly the right choice for you. The truth is that you won’t know until you try, right?”
– Sofia Litendahl
Lue lisää Sofian omasta blogista millaista elämä USA:n yliopistossa on ollut jalkapallon pelaamisen, opiskelujen ja muun elämän merkeissä.