The French Connection
Hope Thao is sharpening her skills with Rush French partner in Europe
It’s one thing to prepare to become a professional soccer player by pushing yourself on the training pitch and facing challenging competition. Then there’s Colorado Rush Academy 06 forward Hope Thao, who’s taking her preparation to another level.
Hope, whose goal is to play professional soccer in the near future, utilized Rush partner Etapsport to train with a French youth soccer club this past month.
“I really wanted to get a taste of what it was like to play here,” she said. “What is the culture like, what is the soccer like, anything that can help me better prepare to play professionally here one day.”
Etapsport’s Romain Thévenoux, who coordinated Hope’s trip, aims to provide exactly the type of experience Hope and other aspiring professional players want.
“Our role is to bring players here who want to discover what soccer is like here as well as the culture and make new friends, too,” Thévenoux said. “We try to create a real cultural experience here by finding families for the players to stay with whether they are coming for a short trip or want a longer stay.”
Last summer, Hope played and trained in Spain, staying in a dormitory style housing.
“That experience was a little different and more focused on just soccer since we stayed at a boarding school during the week and spent time with our host families on the weekend,” Hope said. “But staying with a host family the whole time here, I’ve been able to experience more of the culture.”
But Hope has also enjoyed her experience on the pitch, training with different players and styles that differ from what she’s used to.
“I think tactically, it’s very different here than in the U.S.,” Hope said. “We play a little more physical than they do here in France, which is a little more technical and the ball movement is different, including the style of play. In the U.S., we play a little more direct, but in France, they seem to use the entire width of the field and maximize the use of their wingers more.”
Hope, who plays forward for her Colorado club, has broadened her understanding of different forward positions while in France.
“I play everywhere,” Hope said. “I play the 9 and the 10 and also the 7 and 11. I think that I’ve gained a lot more knowledge on these positions since I’ve been here, especially the 7 and 11 and how they like to play those players with their left back and right backs.”
Hope admits that training in Europe isn’t for every player, but it can be a great experience depending on a player’s goals and how willing a player is to try something new.
“If players are willing and courageous enough to go overseas, they have to be very open-minded to criticism and growth because that’s what we all need to become better people and better players,” she said.