Soccer Scholarships in the USA – Nils Petersen

Soccer Scholarships in the USA – Nils Petersen

Interview with the experienced Bundesliga professional of SC Freiburg, Nils Petersen, and Athletes USA Germany. Nils talks about the unique opportunity of soccer scholarships in the USA. He has played in the Bundesliga since 2009 and is the top goalscorer in the history of SC Freiburg. In the 2011/12 season Nils played for Bayern Munich and from 2012 to 2015 for SV Werder Bremen before moving to SC Freiburg. 2016 he even won the silver medal with the German National Team at the Olympics.

In an exclusive interview with our international manager, Chris Griebsch, Nils emphasizes the need to develop alternatives to professional football. Starting with a good high school graduation all the way to creating a ‘Plan B’. Soccer scholarships in the USA are at the top of Nils’ list for excellent alternatives to professional soccer. With great interest and the greatest respect, he follows the athletic careers of German soccer players who have dared to move to the USA.

The Interview with Nils Petersen – Soccer Scholarships in the USA

Chris: Nils, first of all, thank you for being here. For everyone who may not yet know Nils. Nils is an experienced Bundesliga professional. Meanwhile the top scorer in the history of the club SC Freiburg. He also played for Bayern Munich, the best club in Germany. Nils won the silver medal with the German national team at the Olympics. He also almost made the leap to the 2018 World Cup. Nils was in the provisional squad of the national team for the 2018 World Cup and also played an international match. Unfortunately it didn’t work out. Still a very experienced player with a really great career that he has so far and that is not over yet. 

Nils: Hi Chris, thank you for this introduction. Thank you.

Alternatives to Professional Soccer

Chris: Ok, first question is going to be: How important is it to have alternatives in case professional soccer doesn’t work out?

Nils: It’s incredibly important. I don’t think that’s just an empty phrase. When you hear that you might think ‘ah yes, I already know’. But in the end, there are many footballers who put all their hopes and efforts into turning pro and suddenly have a problem because they don’t make it, because they get injured, they don’t reach that level, or they fall through the cracks. The statistics don’t lie, the quote of players who make it into paid soccer is very small. Accordingly, it is important that those who help make things possible for you, from your environment, but mainly from you, to have an alternative ready: “What do I do if it doesn’t work out?” That’s the way it is everywhere in life! You always need to have a plan B.

Yet the struggle and fight to become a professional soccer player brings you further in other parts of life. You learn discipline, patience, acceptance, teamwork. These are factors that can become important again in other spheres, away from soccer. Take that with you into your professional life, if professional soccer does not work out. On the other hand, it is of course brutally important not to neglect school. Because otherwise you might run into some problems and unfortunately there are already many negative examples.

Nils Petersen with Sebastian Schweinsteiger at Bayern Munich - Soccer Scholarships in the USA as an alternative

How to prepare for alternatives to professional soccer

Chris: You also graduated from high school yourself, right? At the sports school in Jena. How important is such an education and how did it help you in your career and what is coming up for you after your career? 

Nils: During my time towards the Abitur (high school diploma), it was of course personal pride simply to achieve this Abitur – for my family, for me, for my environment. In the end you can say ‘I have something here that will definitely get me further in life, no matter what happens’. I’ve also finished something. I’ve managed to do it, so to speak. I think it is important to finish some things in life. 

During my life as a soccer player I always thought ‘I didn’t need my high school diploma’. Now I’m suddenly over 30 and think ‘luckily I have my high school diploma, luckily I have something in my pocket where I’ve already proven to myself that I can do it’. But of course it also opens doors for me to study again later, to take other paths, to write applications. To submit something and say ‘I have at least already achieved something in my life’ and I am grateful that I have that. Because the soccer time, I notice it myself, goes by so quickly. 

Suddenly comes the day X where you no longer generate income, where probably no one in the soccer area is that interested in you anymore. Then a new chapter begins, a new life. This time comes so quickly and you suddenly have another 30 to 40 years until retirement. That’s why it is so important to have something in your pocket that will definitely take you further on a different path.

Soccer Scholarships in the USA

Chris: Do you have experience with players who have been abroad or who have done soccer scholarships in the USA for example? If so, how did they develop personally or what kind of feeling did you have about this step that the others took?

Nils: I also know players who have moved to America. Of course, that’s an exciting affair. I envy the fact that you can do that, because I’m so close and connected to home. I’ve never been so far that I can say ‘I’m going to leave everything here and emigrate’, but I love America. I find it incredibly exciting when you can follow this path via social networks. It’s simply a completely different kind of soccer, a completely different kind of life and different kind of togetherness. It’s incredibly exciting, so you might think you probably missed out on something. But it was an incredibly good experience. 

We German players also watch Schweinsteiger and Torsten Frings, who have played in America. It’s incredibly exciting for us and I got to know Torsten Frings. He told me about American soccer and what kind of travels have to be done for games there. That’s just something different and I could listen to it forever. Otherwise, we only know it from some college and high school movies on TV how life goes over there. Different when you get to hear it live from people who have really experienced it.

Nils Petersen with Manuel Neuer playing for the Germany National Team - Soccer Scholarships in the USA

How to get quickly accepted in a new team

Chris: You have played with many international players. What do you think is the best way to get quickly accepted in a new team and a new country?

Nils: The easiest way is through performance. Then team, surrounding people, the city, the people in the city accept you quickly. But before performance can be shown, it is good to familiarize yourself with the city and the new environment. Spend a lot of time in the beginning to be present in the locker room, look for conversations, but still remain authentic. Don’t start acting extra cool or special, don’t act overly excited if you are usually more of a shy person. I think the players notice that quickly nowadays. It goes fast. You have the same hobbies, you have a past, everyone is interested in where you played and I think that’s the key. 

Apart from that, it is important that you take time to go out to eat with the team, that you take part in the team. Don’t always shut yourself out of everything or take yourself away from the team. I remember that. You come somewhere new onto the bus and don’t know at all where is your new seat and so on. Nowadays, if you just stay true to yourself and be an authentic person, everyone will help you. That’s the way it is in a soccer team. That is also the job of the coaching team. Find a player council or a hierarchy so players take care of the new ones right away.

Soccer Scholarships in the USA as an alternative to Professional Soccer

Chris: Nils thank you very much for your time.  First of all, thank you for taking the time. Secondly, I would like to mention that Nils sent two jerseys yesterday, because there is someone here who is not doing so well. Nils immediately sent the jerseys without batting an eyelid. That is not self-evident, so thank you very much for that. You’re a great guy, keep it up and again, thanks a lot for your time. 

Nils: My pleasure, I can only say that back. Thank you. 

College Soccer Scholarships in the USA – Free Evaluation of Your Chances > athletesusa.org/apply