Catching Up Q&A With Emily Wynne
MALIBU, Calif. - Where in the world is Emily Wynne?
After graduating from Pepperdine in the spring of 2009, the former Waves' soccer star competed locally for Pali Blues before departing at the top of her game on an exhaustive, yet rewarding, expedition throughout Mexico and Central America, bringing the power of art and the requisite art supplies to underprivileged youths.
During her three month sojourn south of the border, Wynne played in hundreds of pick-up games with local youths and was divinely inspired to keep playing the game she loves.
The result? A professional contract with Russian club FC Energy, which is based a half a world away on the doorstep of Siberia.
In this Q&A session, PepperdineSports.com catches up Wynne to find out where she was, is, and where she's headed next.
Q: Which team do you play for and where is it located in Russia?
A: I'm playing forward/midfield for FC Energy in Voronezh, Russia. It's a city about six hours south of Moscow, six hours east of the Ukraine, and entirely too close for comfort to Siberia (yes Siberia actually exists...whoda thunk it?).
Q: After graduating from Pepperdine did you play any soccer stateside before making the move over to Russia?
A: I played soccer for the Pali Blues in Pacific Palisades after graduation, but I have a pretty crazy story about what I did before Russia.
Two other Pepperdine students and I founded our own non-profit called the Art-Reach Project (www.artreachproject.org) last March. To sum it all up, I thought I was done with soccer and was ready to start doing humanitarian work so I quit the Pali Blues (after being named the W-League Player of the Week and before they won a national championship), started collecting art supplies, packed my backpack and headed down to Central America for three and a half months.
I had nothing but a backpack with two clean outfits, some protein bars and a very, very general idea of where I was going. In the states we were able to collect 600 pounds of art supplies. We had a local Church sponsor sending the boxes to addresses of friends of friends that we could pick up along the way (because at the time we weren't entirely sure where God would send us).
We backpacked through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica doing art projects with refugee kids in Belize; malnourished children and kids with cerebral palsy in Guatemala; and recovering prostitutes and drug addicts in Costa Rica. The trip ended three months later with us painting murals while living in a trash dump in Nicaragua.
At some point during that time while traveling and playing hundreds of pick-up soccer games with all sorts of kids, I realized God still had something in soccer for me and that I was going to start coaching again when I got back to the states.
Q: How did you learn of the opportunity to play soccer overseas? And what was the tryout experience like?
A: In January (2010), the Loyola Marymount assistant coach, Michelle Myers, contacted me about the opportunity to go to play soccer in Russia for Energy (I played for her a few summers back and played against the Lions for four years at Pepperdine). It was completely out of the blue but she knew I had expressed an interest in playing professionally when I played for her so she wanted to give me the heads up.
Michelle said I had nothing to lose, and all I had to do was send in a video of me playing. (Pepperdine associate head coach) Twila (Kaufman) helped me put up a video on YouTube of clips from Pepperdine; the Energy coaches liked what they saw and they flew me out to Istanbul (Turkey) where I got to hang out in a nice resort during my 10-day tryout with the team.
Q: What are some of the major differences between how the game is played (and perceived) in Russia compared to the United States? Have you had to learn a new style of play?
A: Russian and U.S. soccer are very different. The Russians are more focused on repetition and staying with drills until they are perfect. Sometimes we will do the same passing pattern drill for 90 minutes during practice if it is not perfect. They run their game through the outsides and rarely use the center midfielders versus in the U.S. where the center mids are big playmakers.
Q: Are there any other Americans playing on your Russian team? If so, how have you all been welcomed by your Russian teammates and coaches?
A: There are two other Americans in addition to myself and a Brazilian that are among the foreigners. My American teammates played at LMU and I played with them on the summer league team that was coached by Michelle. Adriana came to Russian after having played for the Brazilian national team.
The Russian girls are being pretty receptive to us. There is a huge language barrier because only one other teammate speaks English, but we are finding a way to make it work and I've been having a blast so far.
Q: Culturally speaking, what are some of the major challenges you've had to face in Russia? Do you have to travel around with an interpreter?
A: It's been hard going from living a pretty independent life in Central America and at home and now relying on others for EVERYTHING. I can't go to the store, shop or speak without the coaching staff, or even order dinner from our chefs without help from someone that can translate. It's very tough but I think I am blessed with a pretty laid back personality and I just start laughing every time a situation gets somewhat frustrating. It all works itself out in the end so I try not to worry about it.
Q: What Russian foods have you come to enjoy, and which ones have you learned to avoid?
A: Borsch is actually pretty decent (we have it EVERY lunch and dinner so I'm getting used to it). The meat is what's a little trippy. We have two chefs in the complex that I live in and I think one of them likes to go to the store, pick out the grossest meat she can find us and cook it up just for the Americans. We've had a ton of liver and sheep hearts. I was an anatomy TA at Pepperdine and we used to dissect sheep hearts all the time ... I don't touch those ha ha ha!
Q: Have you started to think ahead about what you would like to do once this season is over? Do you think you'll continue to play overseas, or perhaps jump on with a U.S. Team?
A: Once this season is over I am going to try to get into grad school back home. I want to be a physician's assistant and do pediatrics. I'm pretty set on doing that and I think when I move home in October it will be time to maybe just do some coaching and focus on school again. I'm kind of a nerd ... I miss school.
Q: What's the best way Pepperdine soccer fans can keep up with you and your team during the season? Do you or the team blog, twitter or post items on Facebook?
A: Wow that's a really good question. If they want to keep track they can go to the team's website: http://www.fcenergy.ru. From there you have to translate the website page (unless you speak Russian) using Google translate and that will let you know how we are doing in our league.