Jen's Journey: Kickin' It In Iceland (Part 4)

Jennifer Holton
Jennifer Holton

Former ODU women's soccer player and current assistant coach Jen Holton is playing professional soccer in Iceland this summer. She'll be checking in with with updates from her travels this summer.

Hello everyone! As promised, I am going to fill you in this week on my job here in Iceland. I help the club of Grindavik FC by coaching the youth teams throughout the week. 

My schedule is typically Monday through Thursday, coaching U9-U11 girls from 10-11 a.m., U6-U9 boys from 11 a.m. until noon, soccer education camp which includes boys and girls ages 5-10 from 1-2 p.m., and lastly the U12 girls team from 2:30-3:30 p.m.  After the last practice I go back home and get ready for my own practice which typically takes place at 4:30 p.m. 

By having this type of job and also being able to further advance my soccer ability as a player is really exciting to me.  Being able to coach here in Iceland is greatly helping to develop my coaching and communication skills which I can then bring home with me and use as a coach in the USA.  As you can see my schedule is jam packed all day with soccer, but it's what I love and with these kids there is honestly never a dull moment.

Before practice I work with the head coach of the team to develop a focus for the training session where we can get the most out of the hour we have with the kids and continue to enhance their skill and soccer knowledge.  The practice generally begins with a warm up game or foot skills drill of some sort.  Then the head coach and I will either put together a drill for the entire group or split the group into two, each having a drill designed for the kids for 15 minutes or so and then switch groups. 

At the end we allow the kids to play a short scrimmage because there is no better way to learn the game other than playing it.  I really enjoy the structure of the practice and believe it is the best way to keep the kids' attention for the entire hour.  The kids are obviously young so I bet you can only imagine the amount of energy they bring to practice daily, haha. 

As I've discussed, the primary language here is Icelandic.  The children here do not start learning English until about age 10 or 11.  Keep in mind that I am coaching children younger than that, so yes you guessed correctly, neither of us really understand each other by verbal communication.  Nevertheless, you would be shocked on how quickly these kids pick up on what I want from them or how a drill is supposed to be done.  I am learning from the kids most of my Icelandic vocabulary, which is great.  I will say that my teammates have taught me some words as well, but the kids do such a great job at trying to help me as well as understand me. 

The way the kids go about explaining something to me is interesting as well - I am so shocked sometimes in how well they get their point across to me.  It was awesome - on my first day of work the kids surrounded me in a big circle and just kept questioning me on my name, my age, where I was from and anything else they were curious about. They did their best in using their limited English vocabulary and were so excited to hear my responses.  I felt like I was a celebrity because the kids were so fascinated with my language.  After two weeks of work the kids continue to run up to me and just smile when I speak.  They may have no idea what I am saying but they just look at me and smile or giggle and turn to their friends trying to speak to me. 

The kids make my day, even when I'm in bad mood from a loss or a bad night's sleep or whatever the kids cheer me up immediately and it is like instant happiness when I see them.  I never thought I would say working was one of my favorite things to do but it has truly been one of my best experiences here.  I look forward to it every day :)

One last thing that I wanted to mention to you all is how awesome Saturdays are. On every Saturday, throughout the entire country of Iceland, the pick and mix candy is HALF PRICE.  The technical term here in Iceland for the pick and mix is called "Nammiland" and is just like what we have in the USA at the grocery store with all the candy in the plastic bins where you choose what you want, put it in a bag and weigh it to get the cost . The only difference is that the candy here in Iceland is ten times better than the candy back in the States - especially the chocolate, which can almost be considered addictive. 

I look forward to Saturdays every week not only because I'm a child at heart but because the candy is so good and at half price you cannot pass it up.  I wake up like a little kid on Christmas morning every Saturday and walk straight to the town grocery store, Netto, to fill a bag full of chocolates and sweets.  All the kids in town crowd around the candy but hey so do the adults here!  Candy in Iceland is a big deal to them, their favorite being black licorice.  Yes, I know most Americans including me do not like licorice; however, here in Iceland they combine it with chocolate and some of it is absolutely phenomenal haha.  When I come home I am definitely bringing a few bags of candy to share.  I need to stop talking about it now or else I'll be thinking about it all night!  I hope you all enjoyed this post, I'll blog more soon :)   

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