Sunday, May 6, 2012

Russian Futbol

I was asked in a recent facebook chat by a friend to talk to you about the soccer side of my experience here.  I thought this was a funny request seeing as many of you probably dont want to hear a bunch of soccer terms and it might be boring, but then I also realized that the reason I am here is for soccer and it would be very silly of me to leave that out of my blogs.  So, let me give you my experiences with the soccer here.

First of all as you all know, it is NOT soccer, it is futbol.  And every once in a while I slip up and accidentally say soccer and I sound like an absolute fool.  Not only do people not know what I am talking about, but soccer just sounds stupid.  Its like futbol is a beautiful word that just rolls of the tongues of foreigners and then I say soccer which sounds like a nasally pronounced, prudent insult or something.

Also as most of you know, futbol is the world's game.  It is the biggest sport, hands down, in every country around the world EXCEPT America.  So, being a "futboler" is a special title to have here. As this is my career choice for now, it is my responsibility to spend my days by taking care of my body.  With that of course comes running, lifting, sweating, stretching, eating healthy, staying hydrated, getting sleep and also, resting. There are many differences between playing professionally and playing in college, or with national teams even though it is still your responsibility to do all of that stuff when you are on those teams as well.  But, here, that is ALL you have to do.  I have no other responsibilities than to get myself prepared for the next match and to win.

But, the differences go much deeper than that.  Playing in college was one of the best experiences I have had with the game.  Obviously, that went up and down, but I loved college soccer.  Especially in Portland.  Portland truly takes the world's perspective when it comes to futbol.  It is enjoyed and appreciated.  The fans at Portland were incredible.  The best I have ever had the opportunity to play for and to get to know.  The school supported us and in turn we did our best to put on a good show.  If I may say so myself, the Pilot Fans were better fans than the "Crazy Energy" fans we have here (no offense, Energy fans, I am probably just biased).

But the futbol here is also much different.  All my life I have played for and learned my own style from possession oriented teams.  In Colorado for the Colorado Rush (who will be my true team and club until I die), we were taught from the beginning to keep the ball on the ground, to play quickly and simply. The best coach I have ever played for, Erik Bushey said that we had to be that much better at our style than the opponent is at their style because our style was more difficult to win with when playing teams who are more athletically talented. And, that proved to be successful because we won back to back national championships with him. Two of my proudest moments in my career. Then as I was looking at colleges I found that Portland shared that same view on possession futbol and playing simply to win that the Rush did and I felt that was the best fit for me.

The biggest difference at UP was the work load though.  I remember my first running session at UP with T-Fav I finished the 300s crying, and drooling and I think I might have peed my pants also.  I remember thinking "NO WAY, I have 4 more years of THIS??" But, I made it and I am so appreciative for the hard work we were asked to put in there, because I am not afraid of any work out that anyone gives me anymore.  If I can do a T-Fav work out I can do anyone's work outs. We were, I believe, the fittest team in the country.  I was surrounded by players who out in an insane amount of work every day, without question. And every game we were prepared to out work the other team, run them into the ground. And, on most occasions we were successful at that and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

But, now to Russia, there is a completely different view on what is the correct style.  Most of the girls here play only with their dominant foot.  The speed of play is very fast, but it is more because of the abundance of long balls.  Our coach tells us that there is no need for small passes.  That they dont get you anywhere, instead put the ball over the top and everyone run forward.  Get the ball as far away from your goal and to the opponents goal as quickly as possible.  They are also extremely aggressive.  It reminds me of playing with a very direct youth boys team.  Its fast, strong and aggressive, but not very clean. The running and lifting is very different than what I experienced in college.  The practices consist of one or two drills repeated for two to three hours.  It is the repetition that breeds success.

I have played for coaches who are yellers, who are not afraid to tell you that you messed up, to let their voices be heard, but I have never seen any coach in America that come close to the yelling of the Russians.  Before every practice and game, I not only have to prepare my body to work hard and my mind to think fast but I also have to prepare my emotions to be calloused to the insults and harsh coaching lessons they yell at us.  However, I have also seen that even though they often make me feel tiny and insignificant, they are only doing so because they want perfection.  They are trying to make me see my mistakes and to fix them, and their way of doing so is by yelling.  And although that seems a bit of overkill, their mission is just the same as any other coach I have played for... to make us better players.

I thought that when Tim Schultz threw cones at us and kicked us out of practice that he was crazy.  I thought when Erik Bushey screamed, round house kicked garbage cans or tents or other objects near him, that he was crazy.  I thought that when G looked us in the eye and yelled at us for spilling eggs on our shorts that he was crazy.  But now, I realize that all three of those coaches were the best coaches I have ever had and I am a better person and player for playing for them and their teams.  That when they were yelling, I was scared yes, but I was also learning.  And in retrospect, their craziness was at least rational and for good reason.  In hindsight, their yelling was nothing compared to my Russian coaches yelling.  Their craziness was a good warm up for playing here.  So, thanks guys, for yelling at me.  I needed it and I would be home already if it werent for all of you yelling at me getting me prepared for this team. I say this, not as though it is a bad thing.  I thought at first that it was, that they hated me.  But I have found that they yell because as I said, they want me to be better.  That is just their style, and that is ok... hard to adjust to, but ok.

That is my experiences with Russian futbol and professional futbol.  There is probably a ton I have left out, but it is all I can think of right now. We are back to two-a-days for a few more days.  The weather has stayed beautiful, sunny and warm! The chicken and rice and cabbage is getting pretty old but it is not bad.  All my love to everyone back at home... o yes that reminds me...

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OF THE RECENT COLLEGE GRADS!!!! I wish I could be there to share in the celebrations with you all.  I cant believe it is over and it is time for the real world.  I am so proud of all of you!!!!




  1. Thank goodness u got all the atheletic genes and they skipped me:) I would just be a big blob on the field! Really thankful for this post. Charlie may think I am russian with all the yelling I! At least I know if he ever puts me on the curb..I will fit in with the russians! Please take care of yourself. Love u bunches and bunches

  2. good insight and great perspective! keep it up and have fun! we miss you. Love pops