21 May 2015 UCA soccer player to play professionally
Former Conway High and Central Arkansas women’s soccer player Brooke Ballard has fulfilled a life-long dream this month, joining P18ik, a member of Sweden’s third division. Ballard becomes the first UCA women’s player to make the jump to the professional ranks.
P18, named after the Swedish Army, is in its first year in the third division, after making the jump from the fourth division following a strong finish and a big win over rival Dalhem last season. The club is the most well-known in Gotland, an island three hours off the coast of Sweden, and is notable for being the largest women’s-only club in Sweden. The club won the Women’s Swedish Cup last season.
“I got hooked up with the club through an old coach in Northwest Arkansas that was familiar with the club,” said Ballard. “His club, Lightning, went to Sweden to play and he met the staff for P18. He saw me play and told me that Sweden would be a wonderful opportunity for me.”
Ballard, who finished her Central Arkansas career with 12 goals and six assists in 73 career games, credits her time in Conway for helping her make the move to the next level. “My experience [in Conway] has helped prepare me for this trip in many ways,” she said. “I was able to play this spring and stay in shape along with doing weight lifting and conditioning with the team. While most seniors are finished in the spring semester, I continued to play, which was a big help in staying in shape for Sweden. Participating this spring also gave me the ability to understand the game further.”
Central Arkansas head coach Jeremy Bishop is both excited for his former player, and confident that she can make an impact in Sweden. “Brooke worked really hard to improve her game during her time here at Central Arkansas, and that hard work has paid off with this opportunity to continue her soccer career at the next level,” he said. “Brooke has tremendous speed and athleticism. Those qualities should provide her the chance to have an impact on her new team.”
Ballard’s goals for her time in Sweden are simple: “I just want to enjoy the experience. Everyone dreams of playing soccer at the professional level! I have had a great experience as a soccer player at Central Arkansas and feel blessed to have the opportunity to pursue my love for the game overseas.”
“The practices are all coached in Swedish,” she said of some of the difficulties she has faced during her time in Sweden. “While most people would think that would make no sense at all, it actually just challenges me even more as a soccer player. While it’s a different language, it is still the game of soccer, which is the same around the world, so it can be understood by anyone. Ultimately, I have many goals that I want to meet, and I want to use this as a learning experience, to better myself as both and athlete and a person.”
“I know Brooke will do a great job of representing our program, which will open doors for more of our players to do the same in the future,” said Bishop.