Sophomore soccer player discusses cultural differences between native Australia and United States

Published by , Author: Jordyn Bennett - Rocket Contributor, Date: March 2, 2016
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Soccer in America has a completely different atmosphere compared to how it is played in Australia.

Junior midfielder Tess Keely is going into her third season as a member of Slippery Rock’s women’s soccer program and still adjusting to the cultural and geographical differences.

“The cold gets to me,” Keely said. “I love to play, so I just learned to deal with it.”

Keely said that the location and weather changes are the most difficult challenges in her adjustment. Back at her home in Australia, she lived only five minutes away from the beach. She said she felt out of place when she wasn’t able to just get up and go. An avid snowboarder, Keely said that she always thought she wanted to live in the snow until she came to The Rock.

The weather also shocked her on the field. She said SRU was the first time she ever played in the snow.

“I remember one game at Mercyhurst we had to play in the freezing cold and sleet,” Keely said. “I asked my coach could I wear warm clothes, and she said I could only wear gloves and a long sleeve Under Armour. It was crazy.”

In her first season at The Rock, she was named to Daktronics All-Region second-team, where she finished second on the team with 17 points off of six goals and five assists.

Last season, she finished second again at 13 points with four goals and a team high five assists earning third-team All-PSAC honors. However, those stats don’t mean anything to her.

“We don’t care about awards back at home,” Keely said. “Everything is so statistical here. My mom and dad think it’s so funny that they can see my stats online.”

In Australia, Keely said they just play. There is no pressure and it’s a laid back atmosphere to go out and have fun, but it did not stop her from wanting to come play in the United States.

She experienced playing in America for the first time in 2011 when she played with her team from back home.

Ever since, she wanted to play here. She said she loves experience.

Her love for trying new things is the reason she decided to be a hospitality, event management and tourism major.

“I didn’t originally come here for school, I came for soccer,” Keely said. “If I wasn’t playing soccer, I’d probably be traveling Europe or something. I appreciate school now though. It’s giving me the opportunity to experience the world and get an education while doing it.”

SRU’s director of athletics Paul Lueken said that is exactly what he wants to do for students outside of the country.

He and his staff mentor students academically, in the community and athletically, but do not focus on the cultural adjustment because he trusts in his athletes to bridge that gap.

“It is an easy team culture here,” Lueken said. “The SRU culture is harder. We rely on the team to understand cultural differences.”

According to Keely, her American  teammates are making her adjustment easier every day she said.

“The difference between my friends here and my friends at home are huge,” Keely said. “We all like the same stuff back home, but it varies in interest with the people I have come to meet here, but that’s a good thing.”

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