It takes discipline to set aside time every day of your winter break to work out for forty-five minutes, then practice your sport for an hour. It takes an even higher level of commitment to travel overseas to Belgium three separate times with the main focus of playing and competing in that sport. Both of these statements apply to senior soccer player Ocean Scherlizin, and highlight her love for her sport.
“[Soccer is] my outlet when I’m stressed. It brings me automatic happiness, and it gives me something to connect with the rest of my family, which is important to me,” Scherlizin said.
Scherlizin has been immersed in soccer from a young age. Both her grandfather and father have played, and coach, soccer. Her family has always discussed and watched soccer games together.
“Soccer is a huge part of our culture and family. I think the fact that we are always watching games together and talking about teams, players, and tactics has helped her [Ocean] develop a strong love of the game. She really took to the culture of the game and knows its history well,” Scherlizin’s father Gauthier Scherlizin said.
With soccer being such an integral part of her life, Scherlizin began playing at Phoenix Futbol Club when she was three years old. She currently plays on Sporting Nebraska’s top team, Sporting Elite Girls National League – Regional League (ECNL-RL).
“Ocean has been a true student of the game, seeking additional coaching and soccer experiences abroad, willing to study the game while learning,” Sporting Nebraska Football Club Director of Coaching Girls, and Scherlizin’s head coach of three years, Alex Mason said.
With her Sporting team, Scherlizin gained soccer experience by competing in national conferences and leagues. The many hours she has spent at practices and games with local soccer clubs have also improved her as an athlete.
“All the time I spent at Sporting has made me into a better player. I’ve had a lot of different coaches in [my] time at Sporting, and I’ve learned how to react fast to the different styles in soccer. I learned a lot of things from all my teammates, and they’ve helped me become the player I am today,” Scherlizin said.
The efforts of Scherlizin’s father (a Belgian citizen) to give her an international soccer opportunity, along with Scherlizin’s natural talent, have led her to be able to play soccer in Belgium, once in middle school and twice during the high school years.
“I was looking for a camp in Belgium to take her [Scherlizin] to when she was younger. I emailed a couple clubs randomly and one guy emailed me back. He asked for some info and film on her. He then got me in contact with the [Belgian] national team and it developed from there. She didn’t have to have anything specific [soccer experience or ranking], but early on she showed promise and that has helped her stand out,” G. Scherlizin said.
When she was in Belgium, Scherlizin’s primary focus was soccer, going to training and practices both during and after the school day. Scherlizin stayed in the Belgium national soccer team hotel and training center while playing for the national team. When she was with the Belgian soccer club KAA Gent, she stayed in a sports dormitory during the week and with a host family on the weekends. The games she played were in a highly professional environment–however, her abilities matched the challenge, and they grew from her international trips.
“I would say [Scherlizin’s] biggest growth [from playing in Belgium] was game understanding and awareness, while adapting to a different style of play,” Mason said. “The game in Belgium was far more physical, and tactical transition is done at a greater speed. This alone demands greater personal fitness.”
Not only did Scherlizin gain a deeper comprehension of soccer and advance her foot skills in Belgium, she also returned to the States with a wealth of positive experiences.
“I think it [playing in Belgium] helped me learn the different culture in Europe, because they dress completely different than we do here. I learned a lot of values I’ll take into the rest of my life,” Scherlizin said. “The people were very welcoming and they helped me learn some of the language, so I could talk a little bit better.”
After returning from her latest trip to Belgium on Halloween of 2020, Scherlizin was able to showcase the results of her hard work and make a beneficial impact on the MN soccer program during their 2021 spring season.
“I think not a lot of players are as skilled as Ocean. It just shows that if you put in work outside of soccer, you get the result in soccer. Last season, just being able to play with Ocean made the entire team better in a way, because she was so positive and she was a great role model for all the incoming underclassmen to look at,” MN varsity soccer player Mazi Phillips said.
Scherlizin’s talent and drive haven’t gone unnoticed in the college sphere–the University of South Alabama has recruited her to play in the outside back position on their soccer team in the spring of 2022, after she graduates from MN this semester.
“I’m really excited for it. I feel like I’m ready for my next chapter in my life. It’s high school; I feel like there’s a lot more outside of it. I feel like I’ve learned all the things I need to go to college and play soccer there and just do well [there],” Scherlizin said.