What does your life look like when you decide to go to America to combine soccer and study? Is the level comparable? Is everything really that big there? These are questions everyone asks when you mention that you’re going to America to play college soccer. To answer these questions, we asked Gijs Velings, on behalf of Elfvoetbal, to share his experiences so far, with a focus on his ‘coolest experience’!

Gijs Velings is a Slamstox student-athlete pursuing his dream in America. He has played in the youth teams of Willem II and FC Eindhoven and has been active at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) since the summer of 2023. In this article, he takes you through what his life looks like so far in America. You don’t want to miss this!

The beginning of my American dream

“The beginning of the first year in America can be exciting, especially if you’re not quite sure what to expect. That’s why I’m taking you along and sharing my coolest experience. My decision to go to America didn’t come out of nowhere. My dream has always been to become a professional soccer player, but I also wanted to pursue that alongside my studies. Hence the choice for America, where I can combine these wonderfully, something that isn’t possible in the Netherlands.”

“In the summer of 2023, my American dream began. Upon arrival, I immediately felt very comfortable. I was warmly welcomed by the guys on my team and felt at home. Soccer in America is a bit different from in the Netherlands, especially in terms of physicality; everything here is much faster and harder. Especially at the beginning of the season, I had to get used to this intensity, but it got better over time. The training sessions are quite similar to those I had at FC Eindhoven and Willem II, but in terms of tactics, for example, we are more advanced in the Netherlands than in America.”

My first away game

“To be honest, I’ve already experienced so many fun and cool things, too many to mention in a short article. I’d love to take you to my first official Conference (kind of regional league) away game, which was definitely a unique experience.”

The preparation for the match

“This weekend, we’re up against Robert Morris University. It’s quite a journey we have to make, as it’s about a five and a half-hour drive. For me, this is an experience in itself because it’s one of the farthest trips I’ve had to make for a game. So, I’m already quite tired but also excited at the same time.”

“Once we arrived at the complex, our team stayed at a hotel. This, too, is a new experience for me; it actually feels like just hanging out with friends in a hotel, which is super fun!”

“Before we can go to sleep, we have a short training session at the Robert Morris complex. The field is completely cordoned off for us, and no one is allowed to see our training. That also feels unique, truly a privilege. After the training, we can relax in our hotel room, get some sleep, and prepare for the next day: game day!”

The course of the match

“In the morning, we’re expected in the lobby, time to have breakfast with the whole team. During breakfast, our coach gives us a pre-match briefing, and a few hours later, it’s time to head to the Robert Morris complex. We leave with the whole team full of energy, hoping to take home the three points.”

“As soon as we arrive at the complex, the tension starts to rise because in America, they do everything to win. I start in the starting lineup, in midfield. I immediately feel that it’s going to be a tough game, as I mentioned earlier: it’s much more physical here than in the Netherlands. Together with the team, we fight until the last second and give it our all. The result? Three points that we get to take home.”

During the match, I cover a whopping 16 kilometers(!), a heavy burden on my body, but all for the sake of those three points, of course! With a big smile, we walk back to the locker room as a team, followed by a huge celebration that continues on the bus back to our own university. After the game, we drive almost immediately back to our campus to celebrate the victory but also to prepare for the next match, which is just around the corner in a few days.”

“It’s a super unique experience to travel so far ‘for a little soccer match,’ to feel the tension with the whole team, to stay in a hotel, and to share everything that comes with an away game together. This is something you’ll never experience in Dutch football unless you’re really at the highest level. There are many more benefits to playing and studying in America, but I certainly have no regrets about my choice!”

I’m all about language and conversation, but I can’t play soccer or study in America! However, if you’re interested, I can provide information and advice on pursuing such a path.

During the process, Gijs was assisted by us, Slamstox. Slamstox helps footballers of all levels, so whether you play as an amateur at your local club and just want a cool experience, or if you narrowly missed making it to the pros and still want to continue playing soccer, this is your chance to play at a fun level! You can discuss your options with our football specialists without any obligation, so this is an opportunity you don’t want to miss! Fill out this form, and we’ll contact you without any obligations.