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American System Part 4, Overseas Adventure

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American System Part 4, Overseas Adventure Empty American System Part 4, Overseas Adventure

Post by Guest on 09/06/11, 02:10 pm

Today we hear directly from Zack Shiposh about his decision to leave the U.S.

I first decided to train internationally in the fall of 2009. I had just completed my sophomore high school soccer season and was playing Academy but I couldn't get out of my head the experiences I had playing on a few summer tours in the U.K. I also had the opportunity to train with quite a few foreign born coaches and because of their influences, I felt a connection to the European and Latin American game. I was fascinated by the stories that they'd tell from when they were kids. Everyday they'd walk outside and someone would have a ball to start a kick around in the street or in an empty lot. They'd play from morning until night whereas I couldn't get one kid in my neighborhood to even pass the ball with me.




Zack and his Gremio training partners in Brazil.
I'd become bored and didn't feel challenged anymore and I felt I didn't work this hard for so many years to become just another mediocre U.S. soccer player and I told my parents that I couldn't stay here and play soccer anymore. I was miserable. Through a friend, I had an opportunity to go to school and trial in Brazil and I landed in Rio on New Year's Day 2010. Within two weeks of being in Brazil, I was picked up by the U17 academy squad for Duque de Caxias, a second division professional club. I've got to say that at first, I was totally lost. I had to practically forget everything I had learned about soccer in the U.S. in order to adapt to the Brazilian style of play.

The Brazilian style involves almost all passing and very little attacking, where the U.S. style is lots of kick and run at goal. I had to learn patience and control and a whole new way of thinking about the game. Plus, the language barrier didn't make things any easier. Where I lived in Brazil, practically no one spoke any English. In Brazil, my coaches would bark things at me and I had no idea what they were asking me to do. The good thing is that this forced me to learn Portuguese and soccer, 'the Brazilian Way', really fast.

People in the U.S. think the Brazilian game is all about footwork, but it's not - it's all in the passing. The Brazilian passing game looks so effortless but I can tell you that it is extremely difficult and I loved the challenge. No experience in the U.S. ever pushed me that hard and because of it, my game progressed further in three months than it had in three years back in the States. I was very proud of myself to finally be able to play alongside my Brazilian team mates and in about two months, I broke into the starting lineup. I knew then that as long as I had someone to teach and push me, there wasn't anything I couldn't learn. I could do this.

I left Brazil in May 2010 after breaking my collarbone in a game. While my soccer education was excellent, my high school education in Brazil was not. Unfortunately, the quality of education in Brazil - at least where I lived - was not nearly equivalent to my high school in the U.S. and although I'm trying to get an opportunity to play professionally, I'm not taking my eye off college as an option. I've been interested in schools like Penn, Lehigh, and Princeton and in the U.S. I was an A, high B student and Brazil was just not cutting it so my parents and I decided together that we needed to find another option.

U.S. Soccer Player: Made in Germany


We researched opportunities in Europe and found a company that specialized in putting student soccer players into clubs in Germany and Spain in tandem with a Student Exchange program that provided host families, placement into quality academic institutions, and student support for the players. It was a great combination that met our requirements so I applied in June and was accepted within a few weeks and left for Germany on July 31st. I took French in high school and now could speak Portuguese, but I didn't know a word of German so I was starting from the very beginning. After a few weeks in an intensive German language course in Nuremburg, I took the train to Braunschweig where I met my host parents, started German high school, and began and soccer trials with the largest club in the city.




Zack with his host parents on New Year's Eve.
Braunschweig is a city of 247,400 people located in the German state Lower Saxony. It is located north of the Harz Mountains. Although it's a large city about two hours from Berlin, it is extremely clean, has both modern buildings and historic castles, and it feels very much like my home - Northeastern Pennsylvania - surrounded by green and mountains.

Although I go to German high school every day, soccer practice and game days are the best days. After school, I'll have my dinner and head to practice. I practice three times per week and our games are on Saturday. I really don't struggle with balancing school and soccer because I've been doing it for so long. In all actuality, it's easier in Germany than it was in the U.S. When I was in the U.S., I played with clubs that were in the Philadelphia or New York City areas from the time I was 12 so I'd get off the school bus, grab a snack and then hop in the car for a two hour ride to practice two to three times a week. My homework was done in the car or I'd get up at 5AM and do it before school. I learned very quickly to try to work ahead and around practices. When most of my friends were doing papers the night before they were due, I'd have mine done a week ahead of time because I knew I'd have practices and games. In Germany, my school rarely gives homework and my club is only 10 minutes away. In the rest of the world, you don't have to travel far to find top notch soccer programs. Even relatively small metropolitan areas have multiple quality clubs from many divisions and players of all skill levels are constantly moving within the 'tiers' of the divisions. Still, managing my time in hard work and sometimes finding time to relax is tough, but my host parents are great about scheduling activities together with them like go cart racing, hiking, skiing, going to see lots of professional soccer games, and sometimes just hanging out at home watching movies and eating takeout. I can't say enough great things about my host parents. I know some kids end up in not so great situations but I hit the host family lottery. If it wasn't for them and the support of my parents back home, there is no way I'd be as successful a student and athlete over here.

This isn't easy.




Zack on his U19 team in Germany.
I've thought seriously about walking away from this and coming home a few times. The thoughts creep in when school gets tough, when I get an injury or don't play my best in a soccer game. I'm lucky to have a great support system in my parents and brother, my host parents and their families, my extended family and even my friends from the soccer team's I've played with have helped me through the rough times. Although the people close to me really can't identify with what I'm going through, but they know about my dream and how much it means to me and sometimes just talking through it all with people who understand helps me keep going. Life was pretty good playing soccer for my high school and for an Academy team. I had A's and B's in school, I had great friends, lots of exposure as a soccer player and had lots of fun. Coming back to all that would be so much easier, but my goals are pretty high and I know if I'm going to reach my goal I need to push myself playing with and against the best soccer players in the world. I'm lucky my family believes in me and is willing to make sacrifices to support my dream. This is a hard path I chose, but I can't imagine not playing this game at the highest level I can attain.

My first lesson: Soccer is a business and soccer players are products.


When I first got to Braunschweig, I trialed with the U19 men's team for the city's highest level professional club, Eintracht Braunschweig. Eintracht's youth team plays in the 2nd division of German soccer. In early October, I received word that the club was going to pick me up, but unfortunately the club made some organizational changes and I was released before I ever had a chance to play for the team. I learned a pretty valuable lesson, soccer is a business and players are products. You can get upset but you've got to let it go pretty quickly and move on and that's what I did, but it was tough. I'd never been 'released' by a club before. In the U.S. that rarely happens in youth soccer, but it probably should, too many of our guys get comfortable, or lazy, or don't have the skills to stay at a given level.

I was released from Eintracht Braunschweig on a Friday and the following Monday I trialed with another professional club's U19 team, Freie Turnerschaft Braunschweig. Their pro team is in the 5th division of German soccer, but the U19 team is playing in the Niedersachsenliga - 3rd highest of the eight German youth professional soccer leagues, so the challenge and quality of play was still excellent. Freie Turner picked me up after one practice and then began the submission of my 'clearance to play' paperwork to the German Soccer Federation. At first, I was refused permission to play in Germany. After the experience I had at Eintracht, I was pretty upset that I'd been in Germany for four months and had yet to play one game. Luckily, my host mom contacted a German lawyer for assistance and my coaches began making calls on my behalf. After a lot of work, my paperwork was resubmitted and I receive my clearance to play. It was so great to finally see my name on the website roster, but by the time I was cleared, the team went on winter break. I was ready to lose my mind - I just wanted to play! Once again, I had to practice the thing that is hardest for me - patience!

On any given day, someone can take my spot.




Zack training in Germany.
Since I came back from my visit to the U.S. in February, I'm finally playing and was recently promoted to the starting attacking center midfielder for Freie Turner and playing full ninety minute games. In Germany, the central midfield roles are seen as leadership positions so this is a big honor for a U.S. born player in Germany so I'm not taking this opportunity for granted and I'm working hard to maintain that position. In the U.S., guys make club or academy teams at the beginning of the season and unless they do something stupid, they're pretty much assured of having a spot on the team throughout the year. In Germany, as it was in Brazil, it's totally different. You can be dropped from a club at any moment. At any given time, there are players trialing for a spot with Freie Turner's U19's so you know your spot is never secure and that's always in the back of my mind at every practice and game. That 'fear' of losing the chance to play pushes me harder than I ever pushed myself back in the U.S.

Now that I've been playing regularly, I feel like I'm finally getting into a rhythm with my fitness, my play and developing chemistry with my team, especially our forwards. I'm pretty obsessed with pass completions and that comes from my experience in Brazil where they were more interested in the number of passes completed than goals. Having that drilled into me has really improved my ability to connect with the forwards for goals. I've scored four goals and three assists in five games recently beating the number one team in the league and I've was lucky to receive some good press in the city news. Right now, FTB's U19's are fifth out of fourteen teams and although my production has been good for the team, I hope to get much better now that I'm playing full games with the squad and help us move up the table. Our league, the Niedersachsenliga, is comprised of teams from cities and towns all over the Lower Saxony or northwestern region of Germany such as Verden, Bückeburg, Garbsen, Lüneburg, and Hildesheim among others. We don't travel very far, but in Germany every town is full of boys my age just as good as me or better. I'm getting tested and pushed every game and it's exactly what's going to make me a better player.

Is it bad to say that I don't want to come back to the U.S.?


I get asked all the time, "Are you coming back?" "Will you eventually just come back to the U.S. and play college or try out for MLS?" I just usually respond I don't know. I supposed anything can happen and I want to keep all options open, but I really don't want to come back. I want to develop as a soccer player here, in Germany. I suppose I can lose my student visa if I don't keep my grades up. I can sustain another injury like when I broke my back twice in the same place and didn't play for almost two years. I can be refused by any soccer governing body to play in a foreign country for multiple reasons, but worrying about what might happen isn't going to stop me. Again, anything can happen, but for now, I've been offered a chance to stay here in Germany and play next year with the Freie Turner U19's, play starting center attacking mid and wear the #10 for our team. It was a tough decision to make, I miss home, but I wasn't getting any better in the U.S. and once I got into the Academy system, it was all about getting noticed by colleges and less about training to develop skills that you'd need on a professional level. I mean, the only guys who are getting that kind of training are the ones who are lucky enough to have done something to be noticed by an MLS club or the National team. I'd like to have a chance to play for the U.S. National Team someday and if there is an opportunity for a great college program or a chance to play in the MLS, I'd definitely explore all the options, but right now, I just want to play and get better, and the discipline and technical perfection of the German game is what I need to improve.




Zack with the Philadelphia Union Academy at the MLS Cup.
Some people don't get it. They don't understand why I wouldn't want to come back and have a great senior year, maybe take a run at states, take a DI soccer scholarship and graduate in four years with a degree and then go onto an MLS career. Again, they're all viable options as long as I'm healthy and continue to play well, but while I've been over here, I had an opportunity to attend a Bundesliga game where 80,000 fans stood for at least three minutes singing and chanting one player's name after a spectacular goal. My hair stood on end as I took it all in. I've been to MLS games, NFL games, MLB games and I'd never experienced anything even close to that and I knew right then, that's what I wanted as a soccer player and right now, Germany is the country I need to be in to try to make it happen. Hopefully, some day, the United States will be able to give more players who want to become professionals, especially those like me who are flying under the radar or have more developing to do, the experiences, opportunities and training in the U.S. like I'm getting in Germany and I received in Brazil. I can tell you from an inside perspective that we're not there yet, but what I did get in the U.S. got me here and I'm doing well. I know I can always come back to the U.S. and go to college and be successful in a career, but I may not ever have this opportunity again and I'm not letting go of this chance while I've got it.

Read more: American System Part 4, Overseas Adventure

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Post by ralfdallas on 09/06/11, 02:59 pm

Great read. Thanks for posting #2420.
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Post by Guest on 09/06/11, 03:00 pm

ralfdallas wrote:Great read. Thanks for posting #2420.

Have to disagree....reading this after lunch almost caused me to crash my car......wait a sec.

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Post by AgGermany on 09/06/11, 03:45 pm

"the discipline and technical perfection of the German game is what I need to improve"

Ja Voll!
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Post by Bionic Cat on 09/06/11, 04:04 pm

Meow.

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Post by Coach on 10/06/11, 02:09 pm

woof.

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