From Denton To Sweden
Kelsey Hodges To Play Professionally In Sweden
Kelsey Hodges has been practicing with the Mean Green this spring to stay in shape for her upcoming professional career (photo by David Pyke)
When North Texas soccer opens its home spring season this Saturday, former Mean Green great Kelsey Hodges will be boarding a plane to Sweden to embark on a professional soccer career.
Hodges, who played at North Texas from 2010-13, has dreamed of playing professional soccer since she was a little girl. Despite limited opportunities in the United States for women to play professionally, Hodges has stuck steadfast to her goal and was rewarded earlier this year with a contract to play in a professional league in Sweden.
Since leaving North Texas as one of the program's top defenders, Hodges began taking steps that would eventually land her in on the plane to Sweden. After her collegiate career, she was invited to play for the Seattle Sounders, a member of the W-League. The W-League is comprised of 25 teams made up of collegiate players and recent college graduates. Her experience at Seattle last summer not only allowed her to play at a higher level, it exposed her to other players who had similar goals to continue playing after college.
After playing with Seattle, Hodges found herself an agent, put together a highlight tape and practiced with the Mean Green to stay in playing shape. And then in January, she received a surprise phone call about an opportunity in Sweden.
MeanGreenSports.com caught up with Hodges to hear how she is preparing for her move to Europe.
How did this contract with Sweden come about?
Kelsey: I have an agent, and he is in Germany and he covers the Europe area. I contacted him through my Seattle coach. He took my highlight film and my soccer resume and sent it out. He found this team for me. You spent last summer playing in Seattle with the Sounders.
Could you have gone back?
Kelsey: I could have gone back to Seattle. It was kind of a stepping stone. They are more focused on college players, playing right after college or during the summer in between their college seasons. I got to go and learn a new style and play with a ton of people. This is the next step.
What is the organization you will be playing for?
Kelsey: The team I play for is called Rävåsens IK. The league is division I in Sweden; the third tier professionally. I don't know much about them yet. I know there is another American and we are the only international players.
When does the season run from?
Kelsey: The league runs from April to October.
What were your first thoughts when you were offered a contract?
Kelsey: I was very surprised. When I first went to this agent, he said he didn't have enough space for me and that he would contact me in January. I wasn't expecting a call, and I got a call from him at the end of January and he said he had a potential offer. Was I still interested? It went from there. It was pretty exciting. It took a long time to figure everything out.
What did you know before about Sweden before you signed a contract and what have you learned since?
Kelsey: I didn't know anything about Sweden. I still don't know too much except for where I am going to be. I talked to someone who played there, and she said it is a very laid-back society and the climate is similar to Seattle. Everyone is welcoming and speaks English.
What was the next step after you came back from Seattle?
Kelsey: I finished up in August and then I came home and graduated. There wasn't a next step yet. There was a pause in my life. I was looking into contacting the agent that my Seattle coach gave me. Once I left there, my goal was to play again somewhere in Seattle or play somewhere else.
International is kinda the thing to do right now in women's soccer. There are more opportunities over there. I had a few friends from my Seattle team that were already headed over to different areas. That was something I was wanting to do, and looking into. That was my first thing to do instead of moving on with something else.
How have you stayed motivated to keep playing soccer post-college?
Kelsey: There's only two of us from my network of soccer friends that are still playing. I've always dreamed of playing professionally and continuing to play soccer is something that I have always wanted to do before anything else. I had two friends from my Seattle team who went to France and Germany. And that was motivation. If they can do it, I can do it. They left in October. I was seeing all their pictures, and they were having the time of their lives. That was something I wanted to do.
What have you been doing to staying in shape since you got back from Seattle?
Kelsey: I have been working out on my own. I have been practicing with North Texas during the spring season.
How do you think North Texas and Seattle prepared you for this opportunity?
Kelsey: I think North Texas helped me grow in the defensive position. I started as a forward as a freshman, and I finished strong and that got me into Seattle. Seattle was a big learning opportunity. I learned a lot from that experience as far as playing with people from all over the U.S. I didn't play 24/7 in Seattle and I came from North Texas where I played almost every game. I was in a rotation of three in the center back position. So, I had to learn to cooperate with others and not play as much as I was used to.
Have you ever traveled to Europe?
Kelsey: No, this will be my first time.
Will you have any time to travel and sightsee?
Kelsey: I know our schedule is one game a week, so I think there will be time to travel around Sweden. I know in July there is a two-week off period. So, If I do stay there through October, there is that two-week time that I can travel. Our first game is on April 12. My contract is through July 4 because of my visa. They will have the option of resigning me and then I would stay through October.
What is the level of play?
Kelsey: I've been told that it is a little better than where I was at in Seattle. I compare it to Triple-A baseball. It's called Division I and the third-tier profession league. There are two tiers above me. So, there is always potential to move up. This a starting point.
Would you want to stay over there?
Kelsey: I'm keeping an open mind. My goal is to move up if I can whether it's in Sweden or somewhere else. This is the beginning of everything. I would like to move up because if you do that the potential of coming back to the US to play is higher. And also playing for the U.S. National team. That is a goal but it is further down my list. The professional league here is only nine teams so it's tough competition. So, hopefully, it continues to grow.
North Texas soccer opens its home spring season on Saturday when it plays two games against Arkansas and Tyler Junior College. The Mean Green plays Arkansas at 11:30 a.m. at the Mean Green Soccer Complex.