When you can do things with a soccer ball that even some of the better players around the state can’t do, it’s doubly frustrating to have to come to grips with the reality that you’ve been stopped in your tracks.
goalWA.net has followed Seattle Freestyle Soccer and Cole Morgan for quite some time now. We’ve featured Cole in videos and photos, but we haven’t really visited with him at length before. When we found out he had suffered injury we were sad for him but at the same time wanted to know more about his recovery.
So Zoe Birkbeck caught up with Cole and the result is a Q & A session you can enjoy below.
Zoe: Give us a bit of background on your life.
Cole: I’m 21, I grew up in Tucson, AZ and then moved to Kent, WA in 2005 where I went to high school at Kentwood, before now living on Capitol Hill and going to Seattle University. I am a management major with a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation and I finish with school in December. For real jobs, my experience has been limited, I’ve worked at my Dad’s shop over summers but otherwise it has all been soccer-related. I have been doing freestyle performances for a while, both paid shows at actual events or just going out and street performing around Seattle or at street fairs. I have done quite a bit of youth soccer coaching, mostly through the club Seattle Celtic.
I started freestyle in the summer of 2009.
Like most freestylers out there, I saw a video on YouTube and then went out and started to try and learn the tricks. For me the first video I saw was Touzani’s video, it was pretty much the first freestyle video, and then after that I started to watch videos of this Swedish guy named Palle who helped turn freestyle into what it is today. I also got really lucky and met Khoa Nguyen pretty quickly as I was starting to get into freestyle and he helped introduce me to the sport.
What does a typical week look like for you?
Prior to my injury, I would go to class, come home and then grab my soccer stuff and head to one of my many practice spots. My favorite place to go is Cal Anderson park on Capitol Hill because I can train on the tennis courts for a few hours and then go play pick up. If it’s raining or really windy out, I will go to the Golazo headquarters where they let me practice because they are all awesome people and really supportive of freestyle. Because of the way I usually set up my school schedule, I generally only have two busy nights a week so I would go do that 4 nights a week, from like 6 until around 11 when the lights shut off of the park. On the weekends I almost always meet up with Noah, another freestyle from Seattle, and a lot of the time Cory Black will come out from Bellevue. When we all get together like that it usually lasts like 4 hours. If there happens to be home Sounders game that weekend, I will meet up at the stadium with Justin Dale (friend who does footbag) 2 hours before the game starts to busk (street perform). I will also usually find time either during the week or over the weekend to go hiking most weeks. And then the last thing I do each night is my homework of course. Interspersed into the week, I play Fifa, hang out with friends and all that normal stuff as well.
You’re currently injured, what happened?
I tore my ACL and my MCL playing soccer at the tryouts for the Seattle University club team.
What’s the hardest part(s) about being injured?
The hardest part has been not doing all of the things I love. Basically everything that I do involves using my legs and being active. The sudden huge amounts of free time I had with nothing to fill it with were really hard at first.
While you’re unable to freestyle, what have you been doing to keep yourself active?
The last week or so my knee has gotten strong enough to the point where I can now ride my bike again which has been great. Even though I know it will only last until the 16th when I get surgery, it has been amazing to finally start riding again. Other than that, I haven’t started working out or anything to make up for lost activity, I just have exercises for physical therapy to get my leg ready for the surgery.
What keeps you motivated going through a tough time?
I’m pretty good at just taking things in stride and staying positive. I have stayed involved with the freestyle community here in the US, watching videos people post and talking to everyone so that has helped keep me motivated for when I can finally get back to it. I have also been able to find other outlets for my energy, I’m working on a business idea right now that I plan on entering the Seattle U Business Plan Competition with so as that is coming along I’ve been able to stay positive.
Has being injured/forced to sit on the sideline taught you anything that you might not have learned otherwise?
I have learned how important physical activity is to my life. It’s like you always hear, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” On the flip side of that however, I have also been really surprised to see what all I can still do. I was at a retreat for a management class and there was a ropes course we got to do at the end and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it because of my knee, but I got up there and found that as long as I took it slow I was able to do all of it. The process of realizing that a lot of the limits that I had put in my head weren’t legitimate has been a great experience.
Is freestyle hard on your body?
I have never had any serious injury from freestyle and I know very few people who have. The most common issue is shin splints, I know some people have had trouble with their knees because so much of freestyle involves jumping and swinging your legs around, and I’d say the other potential problem area is the groin. But as long as you take the time to warm up and stretch before practicing, you can avoid these becoming problems.
How do you plan to follow your passion in the future?
Freestyle will always be a part of my life. As I graduate from college and go forward with my life I hope to continue performing often and at bigger and bigger events. There are a few options I’m looking at for that, either trying to join this group called the Futboleros out of LA who get to perform all over the country, or just continuing to do the work of marketing and finding jobs myself.
Since my injury, the only thing that is left is school and I still go to the Sounders games, but I no longer go early to busk. I have been forced to fill all that time with boring stuff like watching TV and playing video games for the most part. More recently I have started to spend more time working on my business plan and all that goes along with writing one of those.
What qualities do you need to have to be good at freestyle soccer?
To really succeed in freestyle, you have to be dedicated. It will come naturally with your passion for the sport, but without the dedication to go out and practice for a few hours several times a week, trying the same trick over and over until you get it, you aren’t going to get very far.
Freestylers have their own little pact, or family. Talk about it and explain why it’s important, and what you take away from it.
The freestyle community is what really makes the sport. Because it is still relatively small, everyone is really good friends and that contributes so much to keeping people involved. There are meets all over the world, last summer in LA we had something like 25 people come together from all over the country and it was an amazing experience. Getting to meet all of these people who share the same passion as you is huge. For me, I have made so many friends and been able to take part in so much that I would otherwise never have done just because of freestyle. The whole community is run through Facebook these days, for guys in the US or Canada there is the group Freestyle Football USA which anyone can join. It gives us a way to talk and share videos with people who actually know what we’re talking about when we say something like “I just got tatw-amatw nt combo alatw ahmatw.” The community is what keeps me going outside every day to juggle a ball for hours. Seeing the stuff that other people are learning is what pushes you to go out and keep training, and it helps drive everyone’s improvement as a whole.
If you could say anything to aspiring freestylers, what would it be and why?
For anyone who is thinking about starting freestyle, I would say just jump into it. Once you start learning those first few tricks it becomes addicting, and you just keep going back out there to practice and learn new stuff. The freestyle community is so open and helpful for people starting out so try and find someone who lives near you to meet up with when you practice, that can make a world of difference and you will improve much faster. Otherwise just ask people questions either on Facebook or through comments on YouTube, for the most part people will be happy to give you advice and help you out.
Zoë Birkbeck writes for goalWA.net as part of our new internship program that connects us with young writers, photographers and videographers to give them experience covering soccer online in the state of Washington. Zoe is highly active in the sport. The Roosevelt High School (Seattle) senior is a player (goalkeeper), coach and assistant referee. To learn more about our intern program please email us at goalWA@gmail.com.