Since the start of the off period, I’ve had time to take stock of my first 6 months in Sweden, and I can’t help but be amazed by the speed at which this half-year has passed.
From June 20 to August 14, the Swedish 1st Division, OBOS Damallsvenskan, is on summer break. A victory against Pitea in our last game before this break allowed us to solidify our 3rd position in the table. If we maintain or improve this ranking during the second half of the season, we will have access to the tournament of the Champions League next year. Of course, our objective will not only be to stay in 3rd place, but to climb to the top of the rankings.
When I arrived in Sweden, I knew very little about the country’s women’s professional league. Despite this, I consider that my transition between the American university league, in which I played from 2017 to 2021, and the Swedish professional league took place without too many difficulties. There are still some differences between these two leagues that I had to adapt to. So here is my list of the biggest distinctions between the OBOS Damallsvenskan and the American college league.
I only needed to live a week in Sweden to observe a first major difference: the pace of life. During my 5 years at Florida State University, I lived my life at the pace of Road Runner in Bugs Bunny: constantly on the move, going so fast that I rarely had time to take in the scenery around me. . With one practice a day, two games a week, air travel every other week, and 5-6 classes per semester, the lifestyle of a student-athlete in the United States is definitely challenging, but demands a hectic daily life. in a high pressure environment. If the American season is a sprint, we can say that the Swedish season is a marathon. With around 6 matches per month over a 7-month period, the season is longer, but the pace is less frantic. The typical 5-6 days between matches is ideal for recovery and provides ample time to familiarize ourselves with our next opponent. The fact that I am currently not enrolled in university also helps to slow down my pace of life.
Another distinction between the two leagues: injury management. Since the university season only lasts a maximum of 3 and a half months and two games are played per week, an injury that would ideally require two weeks of rest miraculously becomes an injury that requires only 4 days of recovery. With the possibility of missing 4-6 games over this two-week period, coaches and athletes alike usually prefer to adopt the “push through it” mentality. It’s a solution that I myself have frequently favored, the idea of taking a few weeks off not seeming to be a viable alternative in such a condensed season. In Sweden, taking the recovery time necessary for full recovery from injury is encouraged. With a season twice as long as the NCAA, missing a few games instead of playing on an injury that could escalate and suddenly require months of recovery is the logical option to take.
In NCAA Division I, there are 338 women’s soccer teams in 31 different conferences. The caliber of these conferences varies greatly, as does that of each team within these conferences. FSU is part of the ACC, a conference considered one of the best in NCAA D1 for soccer, in which I had the chance to face high caliber opponents. I also played several less difficult games there, some non-conference games as well as some conference games not always offering the expected level of competition. In contrast, there are only 14 teams in the Swedish Division 1, and the talent is well distributed in each of these teams. Sure, there are some teams that are less dominant than others, but generally match results are hard to predict. It’s not uncommon for a bottom-ranked team to surprise a higher-ranked team.
The last major difference I noticed between the NCAA and OBOS Damallsvenskan is money. Athletic programs like FSU, coming from one of the 5 “Power 5” conferences, have an impressive amount of money. The budget in the 8 figures to which the athletic department of FSU has access allows it to build high-end sports infrastructures and to offer its athletes the best resources to perform. Between having massage therapists after our games, using the gigantic weight room and the equally large treatment room, both very well equipped, and even traveling by chartered plane to our away games, the student-athletes of FSU are surrounded by resources similar to those allocated to professional athletes in high-income leagues. In Sweden, we face a rather different reality. If you’ve ever seen our game uniforms, you’ve no doubt noticed that our multiple sponsors’ logos are printed on them. It’s a bit out of the ordinary, but it’s these same sponsors who allow us to live from our sport. KDFF does not have the same means as FSU, and therefore does not have the same resources at its disposal, but I consider that everything that is necessary is within our reach. For example, the gym and the physiotherapy clinic are a 10-minute bike ride from my house, and the ice bath, i.e. the sea, is a 20-minute drive.
There are many differences between the Swedish league and the NCAA, but for me what really matters is that I loved my 5 years representing FSU, and so far I love wearing the colors of KDFF. In each of these organizations, I have been/am surrounded by teammates, coaches and other staff members who have embellished/enhance my time in their organization, and who have the success of the team at heart.