“It’s been life-changing! I’ve learnt a lot about myself.”

Joseph Van de Garde cannot speak more highly of his experience so far at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri.

The NSR soccer athlete has been playing for the Avila Eagles for two years and is full of fantastic experiences and memories. Back in Australia for his extended break before beginning his third year at Avila, Joseph was kind enough to drop into NSR HQ and fill us in on his adventures across the pond!

Studying biochemistry and molecular biology, Joseph set himself up perfectly before leaving for America by attending Monash University for one semester, keeping his mind fresh and preparing himself for tertiary education.

“If I had a background in what I was studying in a university-type setting, adapting to the United States would be a bit easier,” Joseph explained.

The soccer athlete is performing highly on and off the soccer field, and credits the college support system of coaches, teachers, international student services and his teammates.

 

“They (teachers) follow me up. If my coach hears that we are failing, wow you’re in trouble! You get put through tutors and all that. For a lot of guys, they have no choice but to pass.

“You have to avoid your tutors because they will chase you up!” he joked.

A lot of NSR prospects worry about their capability to juggle both sport and study in a tertiary setting but Joseph said teachers understand the work load of college athletes and attempt to alleviate these pressures.

“Your lifestyle fits around the fact that you play football and everyone helps you do it. You can’t ask for anything more than that. They (teachers) understand that all of us have different standards of what we are used to and how we operate.

“If I have a problem there’s about 20 different people I can talk to!” Joseph said.

Two years into his four-year adventure in the US, Joseph reflects on one of his absolute highlights on the soccer field, fondly recalling his first assist to set his friend up for a goal in less than favourable conditions…

“We were in the middle of nowhere in Iowa. The rain was coming down in sheets and we couldn’t see outside the bus window. Then it got delayed at half time and pushed back by 30 mins. We came out for the second half and it was late, right up until the 90th minute and I put my friend through and he scored the winner!” Joseph said excitedly.

Despite not having tallied a goal yet, Joseph admits his role is not to score goals but to help his teammates do so.

The Melbournian still has high hopes to record a goal, claiming; “I don’t have my first goal yet but I know how it’s going to go in, I’ve played it out in my head a few times. A cheeky one here or there wouldn’t hurt!” he joked.

 

Joseph lives off-campus in a house with three other student-athletes and says there is never a dull moment living with a variety of characters.

“There’s a clean freak in the house. I get in a bit of trouble because I call him Mum sometimes,” the cheeky Aussie said.

Like most NSR student athletes, Joseph was stunned by the level of athleticism and high expectations he confronted in the US when he began pre-season training.

“The pre-season is the hardest 3 weeks I’ve ever experienced!” Joseph confessed.

“I have no way of describing how much better I am now than what I was when I left, It’s completely different and I play a completely different style.

“Before I left I was running around like a headless chook just chasing the ball around and chasing the player. I had to be exceedingly athletic in a league that was exceedingly more athletic than I was at the time. I had to become smarter and think about my own game,” he said.

While at home, Joseph still has a training schedule from his coach and will spend time on skills, fitness and strength, recording the details of his workouts on his phone, which will be accessible by his coach.

Joseph said that even though they do get some time off, most of his teammates will always continue to train their skills and improve themselves.

“During the season you’ll find us all out there playing. (Even) If we don’t have compulsory training, we will be there,” the devoted athlete said.

Joseph’s father, Joppe chimed in with a bit of advice for NSR parents, admitting you’ve got to let the chicks out of the nest and pave their own path!

“My theory is that at some point they have to do their own thing. They don’t belong to you; all you can do is give them space to do it,” Joseph’s supportive father said.

Joseph encouraged future NSR athletes to not be afraid to go outside their comfort zone and advised them to devote as much time and energy as possible to developing their video content over the years leading up to their USA departure.

“If the coach is going to recruit a soccer player, that’s all you’ve got. That’s all you’ve got to convince him, so you have to make that look good.