The IU Kokomo soccer team has become a melting pot of talent and cultures as the team has landed its second international signing in just a couple of months.
Goalkeeper Alicia Burns hails from Penicuik High School in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is known as a fiery and vocal competitor and protector in Edinburgh. Now, she's more than ready to make the move to the states.
"I've always wanted to come to the states since a young age. So it's always been my goal," Burns said. "I got a couple offers, and I was over the moon. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, it's really happening.' I didn't really expect to get much interest from other amazing colleges, but because of COVID I had Zoom calls with most of them.”
When she got off the call with IU Kokomo, she said she knew the university was the right one. Head Coach Terry Stewart said this call was a bit different, and he put Chloe Wyler, a recent IUK commit from Newcastle, U.K., on the call to sort of ease Burns' mind about making the move. Wyler also was able to share some of the knowledge she had learned since committing and learning more about IUK.
Stewart said he got an email from a European company that was showcasing available players, and since an extra goalkeepers was on the to-do list for the offseason, the coaches took an extra look at Burns. Assistant Coach Zach Hammon gave the nod to pursue Burns, and the dominos fell from there.
"Similar to Chloe, her mentality seems to be fitting with what our girls are like, great work, great personality, and just seems to have a real love for soccer, and that's what we've got with the girls on the team," Stewart said.
The benefits of having international players on the team transcend the game of soccer, Stewart said. Having diversity on the team helps create well-rounded and worldly-minded athletes.
"I think it's more than just soccer because, you know, they've had different experiences outside of soccer that they can share," Stewart said. "It's different growing up in England or in Scotland than it is here. There's different TV shows. There's different music. There's different cultural things ... The landscape is very different. There's mountains. There's lakes. There’s a lot of different stuff on their doorstep. So they can share that when they have a conversation."
Burns said she's bringing energy and hard work to the team and will be a vocal leader on the field. She's anxious to compete for a starting role once she arrives on campus.
"I just want to come and work really hard, see if I can get into that starting lineup. But I definitely bring the characteristics of someone who will really shout a lot but positively, so I'm quite a communicator," she said.
Burns is expecting a big change in terms of how the game is played in the U.S. She's followed American soccer since she was a little girl, wanting to one day play here. Burns called American soccer players "proper athletes," citing a real emphasis on fitness and said she's anxious to put on some muscle since she's on the smaller side.
According to Stewart, a U.K.-native as well, the transition to American sports is a bit easier than it was when he came to America in 2008. He said he had very little knowledge about America at the time and was unclear about the processes of making the transition, which is much different from the companies that Wyler and Burns are using now.
"With Chloe and Alicia, the companies that they've used have really prepared them very well for the experience. They've given them a good amount of information about what the process is going to look like," Burns said. "Alicia, like Chloe, had great questions and was super organized, and really you could tell that she knew what she was working for in her making her decision. You can tell they’re both excited because it is so different."
Burns and Wyler won’t arrive in the U.S. until summer, but that hasn't stalled the Cougars from getting work in already. Stewart said despite the cold, the team is getting after it already indoors in the fitness center.
The hype is building for the 2021 season, and the Cougars are primed for a big leap in just its third year as a program.