Studying, playing, using GPS sports tracking system - this man checks all the boxes. Born in Oxford, UK, now fulfilling his American dream in North Carolina, US. Introducing Kieran Kilcoyne, who decided to leave his homeland to study for a degree in Sports Management.
What's it like abroad?
Sonda Sports: So, you were born in the UK, but you currently live in the USA. Do you refer to the game as a “soccer” or “football”? :)
Kieran Kilcoyne: This is a great question, "Football" will always be the term that is locked in my heart so it was quite tough to adjust at first to the native "Soccer" of the US. However, although it hurts to say it, "Soccer" has definitely become the term that I use most often!
SS: Please tell me more about the way you had started playing soccer, and your most memorable moment connected to the game. How did you start playing soccer and what is your most memorable soccer moment?
KK: My first memories of soccer were during my primary school years. I had never been much of a player but was by this age still an avid watcher, with Chelsea being the team that I followed each and every week. However, one day the mother of one of my friends asked me to come along to her son's soccer practice to see if I wanted to play - since this point I fell in love with playing. The most memorable moments for me are definitely the cold, rainy days that I used to play in back home when I was younger; times where you didn't feel that you could ever be that wet or cold. After the games, there was nothing better than a hot bath and the family Sunday lunch to make you forget about the bad loss or allow you to relive the joys of the win!
SS: How did you get to the US, and start playing for St Andrews Knights?
KK: On the whole, my process to get to the United States was very long and took a lot of hard work but along the way I was helped by the British company Sporting Solutions (I would highly recommend checking them out if you are interested in studying in the US, regardless of where you are in the world). The whole transition took around a year and a half, where I first travelled to Florida for a week to play in a Soccer Showcase in front of college coaches from across the country. When I returned, I was sent a list of offers from schools that were interested and then was given time to make my decision - I chose St. Andrews University in North Carolina. From here, I had to become eligible to play through the NAIA, submit my high-school grades and complete a SAT Test which is required for all colleges in the United States. After this, I had to travel to the US Embassy in London to acquire my F-1 Visa and then I was all set - I travelled to the US for my first semester in August 2017 and have now been here for almost two years!
SS: What’s the biggest difference between playing soccer in the UK and US?
KK: The biggest difference between soccer in the US vs the UK (apart from the terminology) are the facilities that athletes are given to allow them to achieve their full potential. Even at my small liberal arts college we have incredible Athletic Trainers who ensure that you limit your risk of injury as well as full-time coaches who create practice schedules for every day of the season. Being a student athlete in the US is almost like a full-time job as you are often out on the field more than you are in the classroom!
SS: There’s a lot of buzz around soccer growing in popularity in the US. Do you feel that anything has changed during the time you have been studying in the US?
KK: I definitely feel that soccer is increasing in popularity overseas here in the United States, this can be seen as even the MLS Cup final had more spectators than the Super Bowl! Added to this, the big name players that are starting to play here from South America and Europe are encouraging more fans to watch the MLS.
What difference does GPS sports tracking make?
SS: Do you track your sports performance in any way?
KK: Yes! Since my partnership with Sonda Sports came into effect during the summer I decided to purchase my own GPS soccer tracking set to help me track my performance during the soccer season. The technology not only helped me to track my strengths and weaknesses but also my coaches, added to this, all of my teammates would ask me if they could use the equipment for a training session so that they could monitor their own scores. Using the Sonda Sports device has been a great addition to my training program as the feedback that I receive is extremely relevant to the aspects of the sport that I need to focus on.
SS: Is there any difference in the approach to training load management in the USA and UK?
KK: Yes, there is a different approach to training load management in the US as the NAIA limits the amount of practice that athletes are allowed to do per week. Furthermore, coaches are required to give their athletes a certain amount of days off per month - failure to comply with these regulations can cause penalties to both the school and the team. I have also noticed that a lot of teams in the US are actually tracking their performance using GPS sports tracking systems and using this data to improve their efforts. Additionally, athletic trainers have a duty of care over the athletes and can remove them from practicing if they feel that they should be given time to recover.
SS: What’s your favorite team in the US?
KK: My three favourite teams in the US are from American Football (LA Chargers), Basketball (Phoenix Suns) and Soccer (Atlanta United FC).
SS: Do you have any plans for the upcoming months? Maybe some offers from the MLS? :)
KK: Yes, I do have some promising plans for the next few months whilst I continue my Sophomore semester of college - not only with Sonda Sports but also some personal endeavours. I am currently in the process of attempting to transfer universities to attend another institution in California (an area of the world that I have always dreamed of visiting) Furthermore, I am also currently being interviewed for an internship with the PGA Tour in Florida this summer as part of a 10-week program.
SS: Thank you for the interview. Good luck!