Our Managing Director, Fraser Gibson chats with Lois Huechan about her college career at NCAA D1 powerhouse Kansas University. Lois came through the youth system at Celtic and played international soccer for Scotland at U18 level. She tells us about the trials and tribulations of an elite college female soccer player. The conversation goes into more detail about the transition from Scotland to the USA. A great insight for any young girl who is looking into a female soccer scholarship in the USA.
Now that you are ‘done’ with College Soccer, how do you feel about it?
I feel a little apprehensive as to what the future holds. The last four years I have had everything handed to me. I get three meals a day, academic support when needed, my finances are taken care of and my housing is also paid for. I will now have to manage all these aspects on my own. However, I am excited to take the skills I have learned playing college soccer into my life after graduation.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of your journey. How did you find it moving from Scotland to Kansas? Were there any things that took getting used to?
In particular, it took a while to get used to the weather. Summers are very hot and winters are very cold. Playing in the summer heat was very difficult to get used to, but now I can’t imagine anything else. Additionally, being away from my family and friends was hard to begin with. However, when the semester started I had a lot to focus on and not much time to dwell on all the events etc. that I was missing out on. The food was something else that was difficult to get used to. There a lot of bad options. Especially as an athlete, I had to quickly recognise what to eat and what I should not eat.
How did you enjoy playing with and meeting people from around the world? Where did some of your teammates come from?
I have loved playing on the same team as other girls from around the world. Throughout my four years at KU, I have played with girls from Colombia, France, Germany, Austria, England, Iceland and the United States. I have built relationships with people from around the world, not only on the female soccer team, but with other student athletes. In the future I look forward to visiting friends that I have made through athletics at the University of Kansas. I have made friends with athletes in locations such as Greece, Russia and South Africa. It was comforting to know that there were girls on my team who knew what it felt like to miss family, friends and home comforts.
You stared with a bang and had a great freshman year, which isn’t that common. How did you deal with the big expectations on you right from the start?
My freshman year was great, until roughly half way through the semester. My coaches noticed that I was always tired and looked drained. After a blood test they discovered that I had glandular fever and I had been playing with it for several weeks. After this I was bed ridden for several months and did not play until the conference tournament at the end of the season. Playing two games a week was a lot more demanding than playing a game a week in Scotland. I believe my body was so overwhelmed with the huge demand on my body, as a result I got sick.
To begin with, I didn’t feel like there were huge expectations. I love playing football and have loved every minute of my College career.
You had a British coach, but did the coach differ much from what you had at Celtic and Scotland?
He was very different. My coach at The University of Kansas offered a lot more coaching points than the coaches in Scotland. In my opinion in America, coaches are more concerned about the individual player improving and in Scotland there is greater concern for improving the team. Additionally, at KU I found training to be less functional than at Celtic.
Female soccer in the USA is arguably the best in the world. How did you find the standard when you first moved there?
The athletic ability of female soccer players in the states is incredible. However I would say the technical ability of girls in Europe and in Scotland is better.
Who is best player you played with and against, in College?
The best player I played with was Liana Salazar from Colombia. The best player I played against was Kadeisha Buchanan, who played with West Virginia. She now plays with Lyon in the top French league, and they won the Women’s Champions league in 2017.
What were some of the highlights of your College Soccer Career?
Beating our rivals (Missouri) in the NCAA tournament and scoring the winning goal. Making history with an 11 game winning streak my freshman year. Visiting 20 states in America and training in some of the best facilities in the United States.
Now on to the university side of things. How did you find the classes? Were there any differences in the teaching?
Professors expected a lot more from students compared to professors at University in the United Kingdom. For example, I always had homework or some sort of assignment due. However, this ensured students were learning the material rather than waiting until the last moment to study for tests etc.
How have you found the demands of balancing your training and games with your education?
To begin with it was hard to juggle schoolwork with football. However, as I matured and my time management skills significantly improved it became easier. Our season was during the fall semester and I would always take easier or even less classes during the fall semester to ensure I could get to bed early and not have to stress about school when soccer was my priority. I would take harder classes and more hours during the spring semester when I had more time to concentrate on my education.
What are some of the coolest things you got to do outside of Soccer and Classes?
Living in the US the past four years I have had the chance to visit some really cool and interesting places. Not only with the team have I travelled round the country, but during holidays I have travelled to some cool destinations. For example, for thanksgiving I went to NYC one year and I have visited and celebrated the holiday with friends on my team in their home locations. The 4th July celebrations was something else I got to experience and I often went home with a different teammate.
What do you miss most from back home?
My friends and family were something I missed greatly. It was hard to see my friends and family post pictures and to see what I was missing out on.
What is next in the pipeline for you? Continuing with Soccer? Coaching?
I intend to play football professionally after I graduate on May 13, 2018. I have had several offers and I am currently weighing out the best options to ensure that I can continue to develop as a player and that I am able to live off the salary and benefits I am offered.