As we landed in Florida, it made me realize how much I missed it – 76 degrees, tropical breeze, palm trees and, most importantly, sunlight… something I haven't seen in a while. It felt like a vacation more than a preseason camp. Our bus trip to Bradenton from Tampa Airport lasted 45 minutes. Right away, we were assigned our rooms and then off to the IMG Fields for a light training session of 5v2s.
So far being a pro has been an amazing experience both on and off the pitch. The coaching staff, new players, veterans, down to the trainers, have all been very welcoming and helpful in the transition from being a collegiate athlete. Everyone seemed very friendly although, on the field, the organization lives up to its creed as the "hardest working." It was as if the sound of a ball transformed everyone into work horses. Every day we work harder and harder and push ourselves beyond limits in the Florida sun to achieve the ultimate goal as MLS champs this year.
After a long session, we cool down, stretch, and do all the necessary things to prepare us for a second session in the afternoon or the following day. One thing that has stood out to me has been the emphasis on diet and rest. After each session, there's a shake and a meal ready for us in the cafeteria. For each individual, treatment/exercises are tailored to fit your needs. For instance, to maximize peak fitness we use heart monitors, which is something I have never used before.
There are players that I've played against in my college career (the likes of Aubrey Perry for USF) and some from club soccer (such as Andrew Bulls and Ethan Finlay), but we haven't reminisced much about those times yet. The day will come when bragging rights will arise in our conversations, though.
Every day in training has been a fight. The coach has been demanding consistency and quality every day which brings intensity and high speed of play. The vets have been encouraging on and off the field. I have been lucky to establish a relationship with a few of the older guys and they have been giving me good advice that will definitely help me out moving forward.
Off the field, it has been very low-key. Most of my time has been spent either hanging out in our living room watching TV with the roomies or playing FIFA in Aubrey's room. There isn't much to do for fun around Bradenton, so we tend to stay around the apartment complex most of the time. I just stay up to date with Twitter and Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family.