Sports have a way of bringing people together across all cultures around the world. While on an international stage we see professional athletes competing in top leagues, getting to explore the world. Experiences and opportunities like these are available to youth athletes much the same.

Kaley Simqu, a member of our 2005G Blue team, recently spent 10 days traveling through Iceland competing as a member of the Olympic Development Program (ODP) East Region team.

Kaley earned her spot on the roster after attending ID camps last summer through the ODP selection process. She was selected as one of 18 (out of over 300 girls for the Eastern Region attending the ID camp) to go to Boca and participate in interregional friendlies over Thanksgiving. Then later found out she was also selected to go to Iceland as part of the ‘05 Eastern Region Squad.

Here’s more from Kaley on her experience:

The overall experience

It was very exciting and nerve-racking going to another country to play soccer. I barely knew most of the girls (I was the only player coming from PAWest). But, once we had that first practice session, I felt a lot more confident.

Getting to bond with all of the girls was one of my favorite parts of the experience. They are all very kind and accepting. We kind of became like best friends in just over a week. It was hard to say goodbye to them at the end of the trip.

We saw many amazing sights, and this was an opportunity I was lucky to get. We went on team hikes up some small mountains, went to the Blue Lagoon (a blue thermal pool) and toured Iceland’s biggest city, Reykjavik — all experiences I got to have because of playing soccer.

Training and playing internationally

Overall, the style of play with the Eastern Region team was pretty similar to what we play here at Hotspurs. However, the speed of play was much faster, with the training sessions a higher intensity and a strong focus from the girls. We didn’t have a lot of time to train together, so everyone being focused like that was really important to be successful in our matches.

The international teams we played were very strong and also played the same way we do at Hotspurs which was nice to see.

Final thoughts

I would recommend an experience like this to any player that gets the opportunity. If players just train hard and try not to worry about making a mistake while playing with a new team, they’ll do fine and really enjoy each opportunity they get — whether with their home team or trying something new!