Hello everyone, and welcome back to TOG Soccer’s “Being a Pro” spotlight. As promised in our first edition, we will be introducing you to a player that is currently playing professionally in the United States!
It gives us great pleasure to introduce you to Yannick Smith of the Dayton Dutch Lions in the USL Professional Division. Prior to signing his first professional contract, Smith, a native of Hillsborough, New Jersey, had a standout collegiate career at Old Dominion University. After earning All-American honors in his junior season, Smith began garnering national attention.
At the conclusion of his senior season, Smith was selected 75th overall in the Major League Soccer Supplemental draft by the Houston Dynamo; however, at the conclusion of preseason training, the club did not offer Smith a contract. With a strong mindset and work ethic, Smith bounced back from the disappointment of not signing with an MLS club by going across the pond to Finland, where he earned his first professional contract with Finnish club, Narpes Kraft, in 2013. In 22 appearances with the club, Smith bagged 12 goals, which proved to be his ticket back to the professional scene in the United States as the pacey striker went on to sign for the Dayton Dutch Lions of the USL Professional Division (2nd Division in USA).
First off, Yannick, we cannot thank you enough for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us here at TOG Soccer.
TOG Soccer: When did you know that playing professionally could be a reality?
Yannick: I have always wanted to play soccer professionally, but it was always more of a dream. However, after my junior year at Old Dominion University, I was named an All-American, and it was at that time when I started to truly believe my dream could become a reality.
TOG Soccer: What has been the most challenging period of your career?
Yannick: The most difficult part of my career was after the MLS Combine when I was selected by the Houston Dynamo in the MLS draft. The speed of play was something I had never witnessed before in my life. I had a short period of time to adapt as well as trying to learn how to stand out at that level. While it did not work out with the club, I gained valuable experience that I have implemented in my game.
TOG Soccer: At this moment, what is the most gratifying moment of your career?
Yannick: The most gratifying moment of my career was when the Houston Dynamo selected me in the MLS Draft. It did not work out, but at the time it was a moment I never thought would happen growing up. Hearing my name being called was one of the best moments of my life.
TOG Soccer: What are some of the challenges you have faced with regarding adapting to the different countries you have played in?
Yannick: When I arrived in Finland, I was surprised with how physical the game was. I was forced to adapt and play in a more physical manner. At first, I struggled, but once I adapted it was much easier to find success on the field. When I came back to the US, the speed of play was much faster than in Finland, so once again, I had to adapt in order to compete and earn a spot (with Dayton Dutch Lions).
TOG Soccer: How has implementing weight training into your routine impacted your play on the field?
Yannick: For the majority of my career I have relied on my athleticism and speed. When you get to the professional level, almost every player is athletic or fast. I needed to add strength training to my routine in order to give myself another weapon on the field. I have added about 3-4 days a week of strength training, which has greatly improved my core strength.
TOG Soccer: If you had one piece of advice for college players who are going to professional combines and tryouts, what would it be?
Yannick: As I was preparing for the MLS Combine, I did not know what to expect. I spoke with some older players who gave me some advice, but you never know until you are there. The first piece of advice I would give is to be as fit as possible. Even if you are not playing well, a high fitness level allows you to still work hard, which is appreciated by all coaches and evaluators. The second piece of advice would be to play your game. Too many times players go into those settings and try to do too much. It is important to show your ability, but to also know what your best attributes are.
TOG Soccer: Soccer players have an infatuation with new boots, what is your all-time favorite pair of boots?
Yannick: My all-time favorite pair would be the Nike Kangaroo Leather Total 90’s that I wore in my junior year of high school!
Once again Yannick, TOG Soccer cannot thank you enough for taking the time to give us exclusive insight into your experiences as a professional soccer player. For all the young players out there, take a moment to watch Yannick’s highlight video, as he is a perfect example of a striker who possesses incredible technical ability and the awareness to constantly be in goal scoring positions! Yannick, thanks again and we wish you the best of luck!
TOG Soccer fans; tune in again next week as we take another trip across the pond!