Aleigh Gambone and Libby Moore, the UNC graduates starting their professional path in Denmark, join Footwork to talk about the realities of jumping to the pro game.
Every week, Dylan and Sean at Footwork Podcast bring you original interviews from players and coaches making their own path around the world. Below we have a short excerpt of their latest podcast guests Aleigh Gambone and Libby Moore. You can find the full interview on your preferred streaming platform here (Footwork Podcast)
Transitions are always tricky. They present challenges and adaptations that can create anxiety and bewilderment.
Going from college to pro is one of the most interesting and potentially most demanding.
That’s not to say UNC wasn’t demanding for Aleigh and Libby. Of course it was. It’s a historic program where success is expected and competition was fierce, both in the season and in training.
The difference is the level of individualism and self-reliance.
American Universities lend a helping hand during this adjustment period. Although you might be living away from your parents for the first time, you are guided step by step.
You not only have coaches by your side, but trainers, physios, professors, counselors, RA’s, tutors, seniors, and alumni as well. Each is a different tool at your disposal in order to help you succeed and adapt as quickly as possible.
But that is rarely the case when going to professional soccer. Especially abroad. Especially in the women’s game.
“We’ve both been learning on the fly,” Libby admits, “we were quickly thrown into it.”
The knowledge just isn’t there like it could be. Many athletes are left to adapt to situations they haven’t been prepared for.
“No one tells you what to do after you graduate college and you don’t find a spot in the NWSL draft.” Aleigh opens up about the lack of knowledge in this pursuit. “No one says how or where to find an agent, when the transfer windows open and close in different countries or where you’ll fit in with your playing style.”
This can create massive levels of personal growth, but it is also demanding. You are mostly connected to your support systems over FaceTime. It can be a scary transformation.
“I’m growing with my ability to adapt,” Libby contemplates her progress in this completely new environment. “With uncertainty in the present and future. Growing, and being able to respond to unknowns.”
Fortuna Hjørring has eight American players on their roster. This helps in the transition. It’s as they described “a slice of America in Denmark.”
The club has a unique advantage in gathering American talent right after college. Head coach Bo Zinck described the fortunate situation in an article with Nordjyske.dk
“Fortuna is interesting because it is an easy way forward to the Premier League. They cannot get directly into the biggest leagues, and Denmark is a good step up there, since our league is ranked high.” He elaborates, “that’s why the big clubs can’t pick them straight from college, and we’re in a good position there.”
They also have each other. Aleigh and Libby succeeded alongside each other in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and jointly kicked off their careers overseas.
As they explain: the teams, leagues, and contracts are out there. Sometimes the hardest step is finding the first one.
“With all this opportunity (abroad), you are bound to find a place where you belong and hopefully where you can excel and enjoy the experience. The process to get to that team might be a little rocky,” admits Aleigh, “but if you are dedicated, you will try and find a way.”
“Once you make the jump over, it’s a lot easier.” Libby adds. “If you love the game, take the jump.”
It’s like removing the training wheels or ripping the band aid off. The first opportunity’s challenges will only help them in their next contracts – wherever that might be.
The transition to professional soccer is never easy. But this reflection is crucial.
By speaking out and guiding each other, players can also help each other in so many ways; reach out, talk to one another and make the knowledge more readily available.
Aleigh and Libby advocate for this exact sentiment, reiterating how they are incredibly open to talking to players who might need help or even just have a few questions.
“If anyone reached out to me, asking questions about my process, I would love to help them out.” Aleigh continues, “I’m sure footballers all around the world are like that. Especially on the women’s side. Because it is such a hard process and everyone knows that. Don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone.”
“Women footballers are eager to help women footballers,” concludes Aleigh.
Bringing players more power and knowledge is something we all hope to help with for the next crop of dream chasers.
Find the full podcast episode here when it goes live on May 8th.
You can also find the Youtube Highlight Show here when it goes live on May 9th.