Monday, June 29, 2009
Most young soccer players dream of starting at a Division I soccer program. Ryan Kawulok, a 6’2” defender of the University of Portland, did it 20 times..... as a freshman.
Just last year, Kawulok was a member of the Colorado Rapids Soccer Academy.
As a member of the Rapids Soccer Academy, Kawulok racked up many honors. From his first year he captained each of the Rapids teams he played on, even leading them to the Super-Y League National Championships just six months after the creation of the program. He was also awarded the 2008 Colorado Rapids Academy Player of the Year award.
His stellar play didn’t go unnoticed, and earned him the opportunity to play for Coach Bill Irwin at the University of Portland, where current Colorado Rapids and United States forward Conor Casey attended.
When asked about Ryan’s early contribution, Irwin had this to say about his star defender:
“He’s been a tremendous asset to our program. He’s got great heart and a strong desire to get better. He came in and started every game for us and contributed a lot. I think it can be very difficult as a freshman but Ryan handled it very well.
"He came in and won his position in preseason with a tremendous attitude and great work ethic. He was battling against guys who had already been here, but he won the spot and now it’s his to lose.”
During his offseason, Kawulok is now back training with the Colorado Rapids, but this time it’s not with the Development Academy. He is spending his summer training with the first team and giving back to the organization that helped prepare him to be the player that he is today.
The Rapids Academy was able to speak with Kawulok about his recent experiences.
Rapids Academy: You played on the inaugural Rapids Development Academy team. How did this experience differ compared to playing in Colorado Youth Soccer?
Ryan Kawulok: “It was different because of the level of professionalism. Being able to use the locker rooms, and seeing the professional players and coaches come out just down the hall, was just really exciting. It just seemed a lot more professional.”
RA: How important was your time with the Rapids while you were preparing for collegiate soccer?
RK: “It was incredibly important. I received good training and got to travel and play against the best teams in the nation, which prepared me for the travel and good competition week in and week out at the collegiate level.”
RA: What does it mean to you to be training with the Rapids' first team?
RK: “It means a lot to me. It’s a great opportunity. It’s incredibly competitive and that makes me become a better player. It’s a great opportunity to learn from the professional players and coaches.”
RA: While at Portland, you got to play in a spring game against Seattle Sounders FC. What was the experience like to play against MLS competition?
RK: “It was awesome. To be able to play on the same field as guys like Kasey Keller, who has accomplished everything you can in soccer, was awesome. It was also very eye-opening to see how hard the professional players work. It was their preseason, so a lot of their players were working really hard to earn a roster spot. The discipline and focus was what stood out to me. It didn’t matter who they were playing, they stayed disciplined and focused, and that was pretty cool to see.”
RA: You also help give back to the Rapids Academy by coaching at their Development Camps. What do you enjoy about coaching these camps?
RK: “I enjoy the little kids. Seeing how much fun they have while I’m teaching them new skills is really fun. It’s good to give back to these kids through a game that has been so good to me.”
Kawulok is making sure he takes advantage of every opportunity that comes his way. His desire to improve keeps him focused and motivated. As he finishes up this summer’s training with the Rapids, he keeps in mind that training is only the beginning of what he wishes to accomplish. As he heads back to Portland this fall, he will keep with him the memories of his summer days at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, hoping to collect new ones in the future.
He embraces the challenges that lie ahead with confidence, but it’s his passion and strong desire to improve that will carry him as he tries to earn a permanent spot with the Rapids in the future.
That would be just one more incredible accomplishment to add to his already impressive list of achievements.
Posted by Rapids Academy at 4:41 PM