July 5, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
Taylor Leach was never afraid to go the extra mile to get the job done and achieve her goals. The former All-SEC defender for the South Carolina women's soccer team (2010-2014) is playing professionally in Goteborg, Sweden for Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, and is happy to be living out her dreams, even if it's far from her hometown of Maumee, Ohio.
"I love the city and have enjoyed playing alongside and against some of the best players in the world," Leach said. "The level of soccer in the U.S. and Sweden are very comparable. The major difference is the style of play between the two. In the States you will find more speed and physicality within the game, whereas in Sweden there is more of a technical emphasis. Playing in the U.S., I have obtained that physical mentality which I think has given me a different, yet positive, edge to my game."
Leach has been with her current team since last July, but she is no stranger to Sweden. She started her pro career as a reserve with the Western New York Flash (2015) in the National Women's Soccer League. The next year she played for Sunnanå SK in Skellefteå, Sweden, and a year later played half of a season for ÖDFF in Östersund before joining Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC for the second half of 2017, and she will remain there for the rest of the 2018 season.
Just as she adjusted to moving from a small Ohio town to playing in the SEC and overcoming an injury in her first year, Leach has adapted and made a lot of adjustments in her professional life.
"The biggest adjustment to living here would be the language barrier, however, I am taking Swedish classes and feel that my understanding has progressed immensely," Leach said.
I always appreciated all that Jamie, Shelley, and the rest of our staff did for us during my time as a player.
There are two other Americans currently on her team, and she has had the opportunity to play with U.S. Women's National Team member, Christen Press.
"Christen Press has been my teammate this first portion of the season which has been an amazing experience," Leach said. "Any time you get the chance to play with a world-class player with an immense amount of international experience, it is definitely enjoyable. Training against players of her caliber everyday evaluates my game as well, so it's been very beneficial."
Before her career in Sweden took off, Leach worked alongside South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith and associate head Coach Jamie Smith in a role as Director of Operations while she finished work on her master's degree.
"From that I was able to get a better idea of how much work goes on behind the scenes to make our lives as student-athletes as easy and enjoyable as possible," Leach said. "I always appreciated all that Jamie, Shelley, and the rest of our staff did for us during my time as a player, but through that experience as a Director of Ops, I grew to have an even greater appreciation.
"The family atmosphere that they bring has always been something I hold close to my heart and take with me wherever I go. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a family-oriented environment all those years, because throughout my career I know how much of a difference that makes for players. I'm grateful for the lifelong friendships that I was able to take away with me after my years at USC. I haven't experienced the atmosphere that Jamie and Shelley provided for us as college athletes, however, as professionals we form that close-knit bond more on our own."
Leach hopes to keep playing professionally for seasons to come, but whenever she hangs up the cleats, she already has other goals ready to be reached.
"When I am done playing, I have aspirations to either be a strength and conditioning coach or soccer coach; some sort of coach," Leach said. "With my master's degree in exercise science I feel I have the necessary background to do so. I want to be able to give back to the sport that gave so much to me. To be able to inspire other athletes to work hard to pursue their dream would be so rewarding."
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