Lindsey Harris is a UNC alum, finishing her senior year in the 2016 Fall season. After a year in Iceland with FH, she moved to Klepp and prompted notched a second-place finish in the table, earning a spot in the UEFA Champions League. Now heading towards the end of her third year in Europe, Harris recaps her try overseas and what her goals are moving forward.
The Next Step is a three-part series. Click here to read the other two installments.
When did you first have the thought, “Yeah, I can play professionally in Europe?”
I wasn’t thinking much about next moves after college until I finished my last game at UNC in December of 2016. Then I got an email from an agent saying he had a team for me overseas. I was weighing my options between staying in the U.S. or going to Europe and [UNC head coach] Anson Dorrance had some great advice for me. He said wherever I go, I need to play. With this jump from college to pro, it’s a huge developmental period where you need to gain experience and I found that opportunity in Europe so I took it. I am so glad I did as well, because it has been a great experience in terms of soccer, but socially as well! I made the decision in January 2017 just before the college draft to play in Iceland. I have been at Klepp in Norway the last 2 years.
How would you describe the culture surrounding Klepp?
Well, first of all, Klepp is a small farm town far from any major city. You can walk from end to end in about 10 minutes. So that was a big culture shock coming here considering I am used to Austin, TX and the triangle region of North Carolina. That being said, because it is small and the fact that most of the Norwegians on the team are from the surrounding area, it is truly one big family. Our coach here has done a great job in creating a culture of communication, togetherness, and respect in the locker room. Even though everyone has their own lives and lives separately, I never expected a professional team to be this close-knit.
I returned for a second year with this same team because of the professional and human respect we all have for each other, it has truly been a great experience. Being foreigners, it can be hard to not know anybody or know your surroundings well, but everyone here has been so welcoming. We socialize with everyone outside of trainings often and with us Americans living together, we’ve managed to create a nice life for ourselves here in this little Norwegian town. Undesired trades within the league here are far less common, so you can focus less on worrying about how quickly you can be removed from the squad, and focus more on developing yourself within the team and the chemistry with your teammates. Yes, the crowds here are smaller, but the fans are incredible just the same.
Does playing overseas help your resume when trying to return to the US to play in the NWSL?
I believe that it does. Young goalkeepers fresh out of college might find themselves on the bench for the first few years in the NWSL, which can be a waste and without that game experience, when they do get their chance, they might not be ready. Going overseas, I have started every game and played every minute for three years now in a professional environment. I have over 70 professional starts, which is rare in 3 years in the NWSL. The league here in Norway is well-thought-of and my current club is ranked 33rd in all of Europe. I am playing against good talents from various national teams so I think that an NWSL team should take that into account when reading my resume and watching my highlights. I plan to play in the NWSL next year.
How has your game changed since playing in college?
One of the biggest changes from college in the pro league here in Norway, especially on this team, is that we want to play out of the back. We pride ourselves in it. I barely drop kick anymore, so I’ve had to get more and more precise with my distribution under pressure, both short and long because I am heavily involved in the buildup and we often get pressed. Although I have always been good with my feet, my distribution accuracy and composure have improved immensely. My communication has improved as well. I have become more commanding and concise in my connection with the backline. Lastly, I find myself playing a higher and higher line each year, getting that much more comfortable reading attacks and stopping them before they become dangerous.
By the end of your career, what would you be disappointed with yourself if you hadn’t accomplished it?
I have to admit, I would be disappointed if I never started in the NWSL and had lots of success there. I mean, who wouldn’t want to play in their home country, possibly even home state, in front of your family and friends who have watched you grow into the player you are today? I just think that would be cool. I would also be disappointed if I never got called into the national team. My long term goal is to play for my country. I want to be playing as long as I possibly can, so anything less than a long, successful career would disappoint me.