Sport and study in the USA - 'Life Changing Experience’ - Lars Blenckers first weeks

Lars Blenckers: First weeks @ UrbanaU Ohio


You are in the States for almost two weeks now, how are you doing?

Lars: “I’m really having a great time! I knew beforehand that Urbana University was a small university in a small town, but all my days have been completely filled. The first week of practice took a lot of getting used to, but I managed to get there. My teammates are real cool guys and we have a lot of fun together. I’m really getting along great with my roommate Tom Walbeoff. He is also new at the school and also a graduate student so we pretty much do everything together. Tomorrow classes start and the real college life begins. I’m looking forward to it!”

 

Can you tell us something about your school and environment?

Lars: “Urbana University is a small university in a small town (10.000 people). People here are really nice and open and it’s easy to make friends. Although the town is small, everything you need is around. A couple of teammates have a car so we can always go to Columbus, which is about a 45 minute drive. We went there a few times already for activities. The school fields multiple sports and I noticed that the athletes are really banding together and supporting each other. I’m looking forward to when the season starts so we can watch a lot of different games in a lot of different sports.”

 

What were your first weeks like? What did you do?

Lars: “I used the first few days to get to know my teammates and get settled in my dormroom. My roommate Tom and I bought a TV and a fridge to make life comfortable. Now we can keep watching European soccer on TV. Monday we started practice. We mostly played practice matches so the coaching staff can get ideas for where every player plays best. We also took care of our school business on Monday. On Tuesday we started the morning with a shuttlerun test and later, in the evening there was a very tough practice. During the rest of the week we also had a coopertest and a manchester united test (40 x 100yards sprint, limited rest), in addition to two practices a day. Wednesday we went to see Columbus Crew play against New York City with the whole team, where we saw Pirlo and David Villa draw against Columbus (2-2). On Friday we had a few beers in Columbus with the guys from our team who are of age, because we had a day off on Saturday. Sunday we played our first practice match against Ohio Northwestern University. The first half we played well, but in the second half we were destroyed and we lost 4-0. So there is still a lot of work to be done.”

 

What does a day of a student-athlete look like?

Lars: “Every day at 8 am the alarm goes off and we all go to the canteen for breakfast. Last week we had two practices a day. Every morning from 10.30 am until 12.30 pm, and then we had lunch with the team. The afternoons we used to buy stuff, arrange our school business or watch soccer matches. The evening practice started at 6 pm. Before the evening practice we had dinner with the whole team again. After the evening practice there was time to relax. This week there are only evening practices planned. I really don’t know what my days will look like when my classes start. Tom and I, as graduate students, so far only have classes on Tuesday from 5:30 pm until 8:30 pm.  There is a lot of independent studying required from a grad student.”

 

Is pre-season as tough as expected?

Lars: “Yes. The first week was really tough. The mornings were the worst, Because your body is really sore when you get out of bed. Fortunately recovery is a really important aspect and is well handled by the coaching staff, and therefore it is manageable to do two practices a day. Practices are really intense, because every player gives 100% every practice. Fortunately I passed all the fitness tests and I am with the 7 fittest players of the team, although we have a few marathon runners on the team. Training frequency will be lowered from two to one training a day this week. In addition there will be two practice matches this week. I’m really looking forward to these matches.”

 

What’s the level of play like? Is it comparable to soccer in the Netherlands?

Lars: “During practices I think our team is comparable to a Dutch 1e Klasser. The soccer aspect of our team is fine and we have a few absolute class players, who may even have what it takes to go pro. What I noticed in the practice match however, is that the tactical aspect of the game is not as good as in the Netherlands on a higher amateur level. In our practice match we were overrun in the second half, because the space between the lines was too big and it was unclear which player had the responsibilities to fix this. Hopefully we can improve on this the coming two weeks because in our first league match we are playing against the #2 ranked team of the country.”

 

How was the reception by your teammates?

UrbanaLars: “I really love my teammates already. We have a lot of fun, but discipline is also very strong. You can’t slack off in practice, or you will be corrected by the team. Personally I am really happy with my roommate because we have the same interests and and do almost everything together. Our team consists of 22 players and 3 goalkeepers. Our best player is an American, but generally the European guys who are the most important players. We have a lot of players with different nationalities on our team. There are players from Wales, England, Scotland, Germany, Spain, France, the US and of course me, from the Netherlands.”

 

Are there any thing noticeably different from things in the Netherlands?

Lars: “I notice that discipline is very important here. I think it’s great to see that every player is taking his responsibility to guard this discipline, so no one is allowed to slack off during practice or matches. Personally I think that America is a great country, because people here are really helpful and friendly, but also honest and they speak their mind. The weather is very nice here with about 25 degrees (Centigrade) every day, But I’m a bit worried about the winter which can get pretty cold here with temperatures around -20 degrees.”

 

Any additional thoughts :)?

Lars: “I’m already very happy that I took the steps to go on this adventure. Every minute I spent on trying to get here is paying off already. I can recommend this to every soccer player who is looking for an adventure, because I know that this will be one of the highlights of my life.”

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