Where are they now: Women's Soccer Rachael Axon
May 7, 2012
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Former Oregon State soccer standout Rachael Axon has had a long journey since she finished her career at Oregon State in 2009, but all the hard work and preparation has paid off because she is now playing professional soccer in Norway.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the England Academy,” Axon said. “It was undoubtedly some of the toughest training I had been put through physically, mentally, technically and tactically. Monday through Friday I was based at Loughborough University in full-time training and school where we followed a very strict schedule.”
On Mondays, the girls would have a recovery session at the pool and on Tuesdays was a 7 a.m. weights session with a high intensity practice at 5 p.m. Wednesdays served as just a high intensity practice day, where Thursday and Friday they would have 7 a.m. weights and fitness with a technical session in the evening.
“Between those times I would attend lectures and tactical meetings and the week would rarely deviate,” Axon said. “Following Friday’s morning session I would then travel to London to play for my club team and come back on Sunday. We were not a ‘team’ at Loughboroughs, we were just a group of girls that trained together and then went to our clubs on the weekend to play.”
After her two years at the England Academy, Axon headed to the United States and played a season with UAB before heading to Oregon State. At Oregon State, she led the team in assists in 2007 and 2009 and was an integral part of the midfield group.
According to Axon, her playing experience in the United States was different from her experience playing in England due to things such as season length and the way the game is played. Axon noticed right away how soccer would be different while she played at Oregon State.
“College soccer in the U.S. is so special and unique,” Axon said. “In high school, we studied the American collegiate system and it was then that I knew that I eventually wanted to play there. But even then, I wasn’t prepared for what to expect. There is nowhere in the world quite like it.”
In England, Axon would train and play in her own clothing, but at Oregon State she was provided with top-class gear and was training on a good playing surface instead of a muddy field. She also didn’t know what to expect playing in one of the more physical soccer conferences in the United States.
“Another difference between soccer in England and soccer in the U.S. is that the soccer itself is a lot more physical, but a little less technical,” Axon said. “What girls lacked in skill, they definitely made up for it in speed, strength and power. The style of play was also very different. U.S. soccer is more direct to that of England, and the work ethic is incredible.”
Axon played in 60 games, scored four goals, notched 11 assists and 19 points during her time at Oregon State. She credits playing college soccer and head coach Linus Rhode for her continued success in soccer.
“Oregon State completely and positively changed me as a player and a person,” Axon said. “Coach Linus had me realize that my role wasn’t just what I did with the ball at my feet on the soccer field. Commitment to his program allowed me to go above and beyond to improve myself and respond to challenges and adversity posed by injuries, opponents and just general every day student-athlete life.”
After finishing up her undergraduate degree in June of 2010, Axon decided it was time to give her body a rest. After playing and training full-time for six years, she decided to retire from soccer.
“I was so grateful for the opportunities soccer had offered me over the years, but I felt that it was time to experience everything else life had to offer,” Axon said. “A few years ago, I didn’t really see a future in soccer because I had seen so many of my friends try endlessly to make it to the ‘professional’ level and not succeed.”
During spring break of 2010, she randomly decided to take the entrance exams to get into graduate school at Oregon State. In one week, she applied to graduate school and secured the graduate assistant position in the academics office for student-athletes.
Axon has two bachelor degrees in exercise and sport science and she now has a masters in physical education. She is the only member of her family to have gone to college.
“Education is very important to me,” Axon said. “After graduating with my masters my intention was to teach physical education. Teaching is still definitely something I want to pursue, but more specifically at the college level. I intend to go back to school in the next few years for my PhD and ultimately become a college professor.”
After graduating from graduate school in 2011, Axon started to get the itch to play again. She had plans to get her PhD and become a teacher, but instead decided to take a break from school.
“I love to travel, so I kind of asked myself how I could go about doing that,” Axon said. “It was that summer that the women’s World Cup was also being played on TV and it just kind of sparked something like traveling through soccer. People had been trying to convince me to not stop playing for so long, so when I mentioned starting up again they were more than eager to push me to do so.”
That summer, Axon contacted an old friend of the team she used to play with during the summers in Canada. Within 15 minutes, her friend had called her back with an opportunity to play professional soccer in Norway.
After talking to the coaches at Oregon State, she was welcomed back to the team as a volunteer assistant coach. Axon had not competed in a soccer game since the 2009 season, so getting to help and train the team during preseason contributed to her getting back in game shape.
“I got to coach and train the girls during preseason, and it was quite a shock to my body to say the least,” Axon said. “After a week, I could not walk. I pushed my body as hard as I could in three weeks of two-a-days before I took a flight to Haugesund, Norway.
Axon sold all of her furniture and put everything she had in two bags and boarded a plane to Norway to start training with her new team, Avaldsnes I.L. She had just planned to play the first season as a “life experience” for three months, but it has turned into more than that.
“It is actually quite refreshing to simplify your life into two bags,” Axon said. “It was a mix between refreshing and depressing because I was very sad to leave the place I have called home for the past four years. I always thought I’d end up coming back to Oregon, so I didn’t unpack my bags for those three months. But following the end of the 2011 season, the club convinced me to renew my contract and come back for the 2012 season and that is where I am now. I have even unpacked one of my suitcases.”
Axon and the team practice every day at 5:30 p.m. and have meetings before every session to discuss the plan and what level of intensity the session will be for that day. The team is in charge of their own conditioning programs and the club provides them with packets for voluntary individual technical sessions.
Because the only actual scheduled meeting with the team is practices and pre-practice meetings, Axon has some down time during the day. Because of that down-time, she is getting to spend some of her time using her education.
“I get to be a substitute at a local kindergarten at a school called Hakkebakkeskogen Barnehage whenever they are short staffed,” Axon said. “The days can often be long, so it is nice to have some occasionally work and the kids really help me with my Norwegian.
The Norwegian season is split into two parts. The first half of the season starts in April and runs through June and the second half is August through October. July is the transfer window, which is when new players can be brought in and out of the club.
“January through March is our preseason period, which also included a tournament in Oslo and a training camp in Turkey,” Axon said. “There are 12 teams in our league and we play each team home and away. Two teams are promoted at the end of the season and two are relegated. As it stands, we are favorites for promotion, but we are only three games in, so there is a long way to go yet.”
Axon is thankful for the opportunities that she has gotten playing in Norway, and enjoys much more than just soccer. Although she isn’t a fan of the cold, she loves the scenery and especially the club and the people she has met through her journey.
“My favorite part without a doubt is the people,” Axon said. “The people I have been fortunate enough to meet, play with and work with are truly special. Norwegians are very warm people. I currently live with someone who has played four world cups and two Olympics and someone who is hoping to qualify with the Irish National team for the next European Championships.
That is what I love about soccer. It united people of all different cultures. Every day I learn something new and continue to grow as a person. Avaldsnes is a very special club with big ambitions. I could not speak highly enough of all those involved.”
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