Blues Down Under

By Rachel Gaylor

For a lot of players, the off-season is a time to wind down, relax, and take a break from playing soccer. But for two FC Kansas City players, the off-season brought an opportunity to hone in on their playing skills and learn life lessons 10,000 miles from home.

A year ago, defender Alex Arlitt had heard other players around the league talk about playing in Australia in the W-League that runs from November to February. Arlitt asked her agent to try and get her on a team and, after he sent out her film, she received an offer from Western Sydney FC and signed quickly after.

For midfielder Erika Tymrak, the opportunity to go over this past winter had come up a few years prior. Two years ago, she had been contacted by a couple teams in the W-League, but due to injuries, wasn’t able to make it work. However, as she was healthy this off-season, she contacted a couple of teams again and ended up signing with Melbourne City Women.

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” Tymrak said. “I was eager to play and the situation worked itself out, so I am very fortunate for that.”

Tymrak had played on loan to Bayern Munich a few years back, so she had been abroad, but Australia was a different experience. For Arlitt, this was the first time that she had played with a team abroad.

“The people in Australia are a lot more laid back,” Arlitt said. “In the US, there’s kind of a cookie-cutter mold of what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to graduate high school then go to college and then get a job. In Australia, they just do whatever they’re interested in so there’s a lot less pressure.”

Tymrak, a Florida native, found the ‘go with the flow’ attitude of the Australians familiar and refreshing.

“It was a pretty easy transition for me,” Tymrak said. “But it is a different culture. Everyone is so friendly, they joke around, they’re sarcastic; it’s a fun environment to be in.”

Both players didn’t personally know the players that they were playing with, but enjoyed getting to go from opponents to teammates. Arlitt became teammates and roommates with former Seattle Reign players Kendall Fletcher and Paige Nielson and current Washington Spirit forward Katie Stengel. Tymrak forged a friendship with Seattle’s Lauren Barnes, Jess Fishlock and Bev Yanez.

“That was one of the coolest parts,” she said. “They were always enemies, but becoming teammates was so cool. And they are all amazing people and friends I’ll have forever now."

Both players were able to travel with their teams around Australia and explore the country and some of the things it had to offer.

“I did a lot of sight-seeing,” Arlitt said. “Around Sydney, where I was, there was a mountain range about 15-minutes from us so we would go up there and explore somedays. Other days we would catch a train to downtown Sydney. We would ride the ferry and go to the beach. There were so many different beaches to go to.”

Tymrak was able to travel to the coastal cities with the team and see the different facilities, but her favorite trip came when she traveled the Great Ocean Road.

“It’s this unbelievable road that goes along the coast,” Tymrak said. “It is known for the 12 apostles and the great pillars. It’s insane and definitely one of the coolest places I’ve been.”

Both players said that the opportunity helped them grow, not only as players, but as people in general. Going off to a new country can be scary, but the experience they had made it all worth it.

“I would 100% recommend it,” Tymrak said. “Not only to keep playing and getting paid to do what you love, but to go over and live in a different culture and country, it’s great to be able to experience that. I got to play in Germany a few years ago and I grew over there, and then when I played in Australia, I feel like I grew even more as a person and I’m so thankful for the opportunity.”

“Just living in a different culture and country is awesome,” Arlitt said. “You’re out of your comfort zone. I didn’t know any of my teammates or coaches or anything when I went over there, so it really forced me to get out of my shell, make friends and adapt to the team, so I would definitely recommend it.”

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