Former ODU women's soccer player and current assistant coach Jen Holton is playing professional soccer in Iceland this summer. She'll be checking in with OhioDominicanPanthers.com with updates from her travels this summer.
Wow, it's so strange for me to believe that I am currently sitting at my computer writing a blog about the beginning of my professional soccer, or as they call it here in Iceland, "football", playing career. I'm not really the type to journal my life occurrences; however, when asked by our Sports Information Director, Scott Miles, a few days ago if I would write a blog of my experiences abroad I was honored and happily agreed.
I hope to have a new post weekly about my stay here in Iceland as well as my professional playing career with UMFG Grindavik FC. As this is my first ever blog, I cannot promise that it will always be interesting, however I will do my best in sharing my most exciting moments here and my tales about the trip. I hope you all enjoy the blog and learn a thing or two about life and soccer here in Iceland! Thank you in advance for taking the time to read and contemplate all that I have to say.
To play professionally had always been a dream and a life goal of mine, as most of you young soccer players would agree in sharing this same dream with me. Especially as young girls having grown up under the influence of the greatest female athletes of all-time coming from the soccer world including, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Christine Lilly, Julie Foudy, and more current superstar players like Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Christie Rampone to name a few - who wouldn't be inspired and motivated? Some of the most culturally impacting female athletes have come from the sport of soccer and they are the ones that we are lucky enough to look up to and idolize. We are so fortunate to come from a country where some of the greatest women athletes are right here amongst us.
Having grown up holding these women as superstars in my eyes, it was only normal to want to be like them. Obviously I am nowhere near that stature of player that they are but they have given me motivation, courage and ambition to continue to grow with the game and develop my knowledge and skills in all levels. They have set the bar very high allowing people to look up to them and find a competitive level inside that pushes themselves to try and surpass that bar and for that we should all be truly grateful; I know I am.
The opportunity to play professionally was not just placed in front of me to take. This opportunity took determination, dedication, hard work, and if I'm being quite honest, a bit of luck. I was put in touch with an agent after proving myself at the NSCAA National Coaching Licensure Camp. Never in a million years would I have thought I'd be noticed for my play at a coaching licensing camp but it happened. After having been in and out of contact with this agent for about six months, I just about gave up on the dream to play professionally. It was not until that sixth month that my agent had found a potential team for me to play on in Iceland. This was not the ideal location that I wanted to play - I wanted to stay in the United States, closer to home. However, chances like these don't just keep coming around and I had to take what I was given.
My agent and I got into contact with the management of UMFG Grindavik FC, a professional soccer team in the Pepsi Deild Women's League in Grindavik, Iceland. I had to send on my highlight tape as well as my resume and trust in my agent's recommendation to find a spot for me on the team. Once the club had decided to accept me, the paperwork and contracts began to come to me and everything was a hustle to have completed before May 15when the immigration window closed.
In other preparation for the trip, I was conditioning six days a week and occasionally putting myself through two-a-days. Having not played at this high level of competition for over a year, I knew it was going to take much work to get to the level I needed to be physically to compete for a spot once I arrived. I spent my last couple weeks trying to see my family and friends as much as possible before heading off on my way. Finally, on May 6 I left the US and was on my way to begin my professional career in Iceland.
Upon arriving I moved into a furnished house provided to me by the club and currently live with our goalie from Northern Ireland. I do miss American food very much and my parents' home cooked meals, but who wouldn't? The toughest challenges are the language barrier, currency differences and the almost endless daylight (20 hours per day). Most people here have learned English, however do not speak it daily and therefore are not confident in speaking it unless asked to.
As for soccer, I have played in three games so far, having won one of them and lost two. I am getting much playing time, having started and played the entire game each game. The competition here is stiff and the type of soccer is a very possession-like style. I very much enjoy the way they play and how the team moves off the ball, always creating space for the next player to fill. We practice five to six days a week with a game or two in between. We have yet to have a home game so I am very excited to see what the atmosphere will be like then. The town I am in is very small with only about 2,800 people; however, I have heard many of them come out to the home games to cheer us on. Let's hope for a big crowd and a big win for our first home match.
We are currently on a break from games until June 10, so I will be just training for the next 2 weeks. I will keep you all updated however on life in Iceland, cultural events, and of course soccer news J That is all I have for my first post! Again thank you for reading, I will post again within the next week or so to update on new and exciting adventures from Iceland! Brrrrr… it's rather chilly up here (Only 50 degrees for the high today!)