Former client, Emma Morris took time out of her busy schedule to contact FirstPointUSA. This is what she had to say...
This time last year, my American dream was beginning. I was an 18 year old Yorkshire born and bred, football mad, central defender about to embark on a 4 year journey to major in Sports and Recreation Management while minoring in Business Administration. It was not the first time I had moved away from home as I had already done so for my first year at college, but I had never even been to the States for a holiday, let alone to live there.
My journey with First Point USA started back in February 2012 when I applied online; my first official trial was on 25th
May 2012 in Leyland where I happened to be the only female participant. First Point gave me the opportunity to just watch but I felt comfortable playing with the guys and afterwards I was accepted to the next stage. This next stage involved making a trip to Glasgow on 13th
June 2012 to see the First Point facilities and interview for a place as a client, and on the 25th
I was officially offered a place on the programme which I accepted shortly afterwards. I sat two SAT exams and attended another showcase which involved most First Point female soccer clients in December 2012, this was one of my favourite moments of the whole programme as things really started to become real when making new friends who had the same desire as me and then playing in front of several coaches who had flown over from the USA specifically to look at me and the rest of the clientele. I got a few emails off the back of this before my footage was even online, and as soon as the footage was online I got the rest of the emails coming in. It was safe to say that there was a huge variation of universities interested and I was overwhelmed by the interest and just knew at that moment that every bit of effort and time put in to the last 10 months had been worth it.
Ashford University was actually one of the last universities to get in contact with me. Up until this moment I had declined most and was speaking to a few real possibilities, but Ashford just fit the bill for everything I had hoped for. Iím not really the most outgoing person and I donít like being in situations where there are lots of people (in the thousands) so my first necessity was for a relatively small amount of students on campus. My second necessity was that there was a course I wanted to do, Sports and Recreation Management being my favourite choice, which Ashford had. Of course for anyone applying to or receiving First Point USAís service, another necessity is that the sports team in which you will participate in, is suitable for you. My coach had sent a lot of information about the university and team in his first couple of emails and I felt like this was a great match for me, but to make sure, I asked if there were any videoís that I could watch. Coach sent me a load of matches from the previous semester and I sat with my parents and watched them. We all agreed that this team looked like a team I could integrate in pretty well, but still have to fight for my place, which is something I wanted as I am very serious about my football. Another of my specifications, obviously, is that I like the Coach and in this case, he really seemed not only like he had developed a good team through his skill and determination, but also like he was very reasonable and wanted to help in any way possible. He had contacted us via our landline so that we could have a proper conversation and he could give me all the information I needed. He also emailed me the contact information for the only English girl on the team who was just finishing her first year at the university, so I could get a real perspective from her point of view. It did also help that Coach was also English and so we had that kind of common ground too.
By this point I had narrowed my options down to Ashford and another university, both of which were in the same kind of area of America (mid-west), and both of which played in the NAIA
. Ashford shows my home games online so my family and friends can watch back at home, which as my dad has only missed a couple of my games in my entire life, this was a necessity to me. Ashford also had on paper, the better set up for soccer and the better female soccer team. What really drew me towards Ashford, was the fact that it had diversity. I couldnít believe that I had the opportunity to play on a team with not only Americans, but Canadians, Germans, a Brazilian, a Norwegian, another Englishman and an Australian. On campus we have so many different nationalities, itís great!
On the way to the USA
My first thoughts of America were that it was boiling, looked like I was on a film set and everyone was very welcoming. I was surprised to see that their Ďtrucksí, are not anything like our lorryís. As the first couple of days went by, I quickly got used to the physical demands of pre-season, doing 2 or 3 a days of fitness, while in the torturing heat. My first match came shortly after which was a scrimmage (friendly) at night, and I was quite surprised that I got to play the second half as I had arrived so late in to pre-season and my fitness levels were not as good as most of the squad. But I came on and played ok so I was pretty pleased that I had got my first match under my belt.
Within the next few days academics had started, so I was quickly learning the student-athlete way of life, juggling classes, practices, assignments, matches, traveling and normal every day requirements, in to such short periods of time. Again I use the words Ďphysical demandsí because you really are forced in to being organised and responsible which for some comes harder than others and you have to get on with it whether you are aching, tired or just mentally finding it daunting. But really, once you get used to it, you realise that you are privileged to be in this environment and certainly for me, I havenít regretted a minute of it.
In terms of life on the road, I think the longest journey was 13 Ĺ hours up to North Dakota, and we also flew to our conference tournament in Lawrenceville, Georgia. What you do on these long trips is up to you, some people sleep, some do assignments, others listen to music and others read. Sometimes we sing and play games, it just really depends on the individuals and the amount of time we are traveling. I love traveling and getting to see all the different states, and I enjoy spending time with my teammates because we are like sisters and I think the time we spend together really helps our team bonding and chemistry which really shows with our great record on the pitch.
The season actually went really well, we finished on a 13-4 which is 13 wins and 4 losses. Even 3 of our losses were just by 1 goal and the other was just 2. We scored 39 goals with 14 against and for me personally in an injury-stricken season I played in 12 games starting 7. We were gutted to lose our conference final and not get a Ďwild cardí in to nationals even though we beat around 5 teams who were in the last 32, and we were given a #20 ranking at the end of the season in December.
Even in the off-season, for spring semester, I have enjoyed every minute. We didnít play quite so much in this time, especially because the weather in the mid-west is even worse at this time of year than I ever expected. Piles of snow like Iíve never seen (which is saying something as Iím from the Yorkshire Dales), and weather so cold that we were given a day off university purely because it was too cold to step outside and could be fatal after just minutes exposed to that temperature (between 29-32 degrees Celsius I think). It was just crazy. Training was more to do with weight lifting and conditioning than anything in this time as the weather prevented us being outdoors. We played some indoor soccer
too and finally got back out on to the pitch around March-April time after a harsh winter. On the flip side I got to spend a week in California for spring break with 3 teammates/friends, it was honestly just an amazing experience and somewhere everyone should aim to see while in the states.
Itís fair to say, the American dream is real, and I have loved every minute of my first year while maintaining very good academics with both semesters on the Deanís list and playing the sport I love. First Point USA really have made dreams come true and I thank them for this opportunity.
Top 10 tips for First Point USA Clients
- Do your research Ė Do you know the difference between NAIA & NCAA?
- Take your time to make the RIGHT choice for you.
- Try and do things early such as SATís, Eligibility centre, Visa etc.
- I wrote down what specifications I would like a uni to have before I got a lot of offers in, this might work for you, choose the size, maybe even location, courses you would look at doing, divisions you would aim to play in. Try and tick most boxes with the one you pick.
- Use FPUSA to the max, thatís what they are there for, donít hesitate to ask them questions even if you think itís a Ďsilly questioní.
- Be prepared, donít rush around last minute, and make sure you go out here with the right mind-set.
- Make sure you are fit before you go out there, make first impressions count.
- Take things that can remind you of home or make your room as close to home as possible.
- Work, work and work. You are out there for a uni degree, not just to play, balance them both to do well in both. Certainly in my uni, failing your degree = no soccer until you get your grades back up.
- Enjoy every minute of the process and your experience when youíre out there, it really is the American dream, it isnít something to be taken for granted.
Many thanks to Emma for taking time out of her busy schedule to write this blog. If you'd like to follow her and earn a scholarship in America then apply to FirstpointUSA today!