Dufka's Spring Break Update 2
April 5, 2012
SEATTLE - Faustine Dufka is a redshirt junior on our women's soccer team. Her mother, Marie-Pierre Carlotti, is French-born and Faustine is spending time with her maternal grandmother over spring break and exploring possible playing opportunities after her final season next fall. Faustine is a Medical Anthropology major, an Honors student who carries a 3.75+ G.P.A. and attended high school at the International School in San Francisco where she did her academic work in French. Ready Faustine's post below.
The PSG facilities are located in a very nice suburb of Paris called St. Germain-en-Laye. On one side of the street are the men's facilities: the name of their stadium is the "Parc des Princes," whose entrance was guarded by heavily armed policemen on game day. On the opposite side of the street is the Camp des Loges, the training center that houses the rest of the club's teams: the women's programs (A and B professional teams and youth teams from U11 to U19), the boy's youth programs (from U7 to U19), and the men's B team. The Camp des Loges includes five fields located around the locker rooms and coaches offices: two are turf and three are grass (including the game field). In France, the development of youth players happens differently from the US. Boys are recruited at a young age into the club's academy, where they attend class during the day and practice in the afternoon. The club is in charge of both schooling and soccer for the kids. As of now, only boys attend the academy, but considering the rate at which women's soccer is growing in France, I'm sure within the next five to 10 years they will have girls in the academies as well. They all wear matching uniforms for training, even the little six year olds! They have been taught to shake hands with all coaches, trainers, and adults present on their way to and from practice. The sight of all these little kids wearing PSG uniforms and multicolored vapors, standing in line to shake hands with us, was absolutely adorable!
Monday was my first day of training with the team. It is usually their "recuperation" day because they play games on Sundays, so we worked on a variety of technical skills. This was followed by a quick circuit composed of plyometrics, proprio, and what they call "musculation." Their strength training is much lighter than ours: they lift once a week, and it is only in the weight room every other week. The circuit (and equipment) was not even comparable to the stuff we do with Rose, but then again we do have one of the best strength coaches in the nation! SPARQ training would have been a very foreign concept had I attempted to explain the type of strength, speed, and agility work we do. The French players were all very welcoming and immediately made me feel comfortable--although they certainly made a point to comment on my height (I was the tallest one there)! After practice I got a tour of the facilities they use: weight room, training room, doctor's office, equipment room, and locker room, which are all shared with the other youth teams. I was shocked when I found out that as a women's professional soccer team, they don't even have their own locker room, let alone individual lockers with their names and numbers on them. After only the first day, the differences between our resources, equipment, and facilities and theirs were very evident, reinforcing my impressions from last week about the large disparities between funding and opportunities for female soccer players in France and the United States.
The team doesn't train on Tuesdays, so I took advantage of this day off to do some exploring in Paris with the family friend I was staying with. She attends law school in Paris, so we picnicked in the Jardins du Luxembourg right next to her school. The weather was fantastic all week--sunny, mid 70s--quite the change from the Seattle weather I had gladly left behind for a few weeks! I also managed to get a 25 euro fine in the metro for not carrying around the proper proof of identification in conjunction with the week-long bus pass I had purchased upon my arrival in Paris. As you can imagine, I was slightly upset, because the man who sold me the bus pass never told me I had to glue a photo to it and write my name on it... I tried explaining to the metro personnel that I was a tourist and had just arrived the day before. No one believed me because I was speaking with a perfectly French accent and they had no reason to believe I was visiting from the United States. In retrospect, I probably should have spoken English the entire time and feigned not understanding what they were talking about!
When I arrived at the field on Wednesday, I was informed by a few players that they always do fitness on Wednesdays. This made me nervous but I realized that the fitness we have done as a team has prepared me for the worst...and whatever we would do in Paris couldn't possibly be as hard as some of the increasingly creative and leg-burning fitness drills our coaches have come up with in the past few years. I was soon reassured when I found out the fitness we were doing was built into crossing and finishing and only lasted about fifteen minutes. We then played a few rounds of a possession game with targets, and finished up with a 9 vs. 9 scrimmage. At first I found it challenging to adapt to their playing style and bumpy field, being accustomed to our quicker-paced, 1 and 2 touch style soccer on sleek surfaces. I also found myself tongue-tied at times...how do you say "man on" in French? "show outside"? "press"? "hold" ? "shift" ? "slide"....? I picked up on a few words, but I definitely still have some learning to do if I ever want to play in France!
Thursday was the last day I trained with the PSG women. We warmed up with a speed and agility circuit composed of hurdles, a speed ladder, hula hoops, and a few cones and flags. Yet again, this circuit was not even comparable to Rose's speed school! Expecting to play more as we usually do at Thursday practices, I was surprised when we ended up doing tactical training the entire practice! Their team usually plays a 4-5-1, but the coach wanted to work practicing a 4-4-2. We started out with shadow play and then got into offense vs. defense, something our team does quite often. I wish I had gotten the opportunity to play a bit more, but regardless, training with this team was a great experience and I'm grateful I had this opportunity!
After an eventful and exciting week in Paris, I traveled to Tours, a city two hours south of Paris, to spend the weekend with very good family friends and celebrate their daughter Amélie's 18th birthday. On Monday morning I was able to shadow Amélie's father for a few hours before my departure: he is a pediatric dermatologist in the children's hospital of Tours, and it was very interesting to get a chance to see how hospitals and the public healthcare system function in France! As I am writing now, I am on the third leg of my trip home: after a train from Tours to the airport in Paris, a 10 hour flight from Paris to Atlanta, I am now on the six hour flight from Atlanta to Seattle. I have been traveling for over 24 hours and cannot wait to get home! This experience playing abroad has been both fun and quite eye-opening! Coming back with a new sense of perspective, I couldn't be more excited to kick off a great spring season!