The road for Guilherme Reis has been long, but Reis feels like coming to ETSU has been the best choice he has made yet.
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 30, 2009) - For Guilherme Reis, coming to ETSU has been one of the best decisions he has made since getting involved with soccer at a young age. The junior from Belo Horizonte, Brazil comes from a part of the world where soccer is very big and for most people a part of everyday life.
Reis began playing soccer when he was 8 years old with the support of his parents.
"I started playing when I was young with a game called futsal," Reis said. "Everyone in Brazil starts with futsal, which is a game used to develop the skill of a player."
Futsal is similar to indoor soccer, but instead of walls there are lines drawn on the ground for boundaries. Also, there are only five players allowed on the court for each team. The game was made for teaching players how to play in small spaces and with a fast pace of play.
After spending three years of playing futsal, Reis began playing soccer for the Cruzeiro Soccer Academy in Brazil. Reis traveled all over the country and even abroad, facing some of the best competition in the world while playing for Cruzeiro. Reis was one of over 500 kids to try out for Cruzeiro with only two or three players making the squad at each tryout. At Cruzeiro, boys in Brazil are given the opportunity to train for soccer and go to school. It is very similar to a boarding school.
"In Brazil, the thought is you have to go to school and learn to be a good soccer player," said Reis. "There are many people who want the chance to play soccer and go to school, so you could say I am lucky to have been able to do both."
After spending five years with Cruzeiro, Reis was moved to another soccer academy for a couple years to increase his skill. Reis then moved on to Atletico, the rival of Cruzeiro, a team he rooted against for many years.
"I wasn't happy playing for them," Reis said. "But I realized in soccer you have to go to where the opportunity is."
After spending two years with Atletico, Reis decided he wanted to concentrate on his education. Reis then accepted an offer from Alabama-Huntsville to come to the States and play soccer, while working on a degree.
"About five years ago you didn't really hear of anyone coming to the US to play soccer, but now there are opportunities for people like me to come play and get a degree," Reis said. "It is really good for me since it is hard to go to a university back at home because they are so expensive."
In Brazil, for a person to make it in soccer is tough, because every kid grows up wanting to play professional soccer. There aren't any other sports being played in Brazil, and even today you see kids at a very young age signing contracts to play professionally in Brazil and overseas.
Reis gets his inspiration to play soccer from his parents, and they sacrificed a lot for Reis to play soccer. When Reis was young his father pushed him to play the sport; knowing that if Reis was good at soccer, he would get a good education and be successful in life.
Reis has idolized several Brazilian greats growing up, players such as Lúcio and Maicon. Lúcio and Maicon are both defenders on the Brazilian national team and have won several international tournaments, including the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Since coming to the US, Reis had to adapt his game to the many different styles of play he has encountered while playing in college. Reis grew up playing a very technical style of football, but now he has become a more physical player.
"I think it's good that I get to see all of these different styles of play," said Reis. "It only makes me a better and more complete player. I think I am a stronger player now than when I was playing in Brazil."
Having played in the States for the past three years, Reis has noticed the players here are in great physical shape, and that you have to work harder to be at the same level as them.
Because of Reis' knowledge of the game from having played for a long time in Brazil, he is counted on to be a team leader by the coaching staff and the other players on the team.
"I try my best to play well and be a leader for the team," Reis said. "Hopefully we can finish the season in a good spot and do well in the post season."
Playing in the back for the Bucs and coming from a style of play where communication is essential, Reis feels right at home leading the way for ETSU. He realizes the wealth of talent ETSU has, and compares them to teams he has played for in Brazil. Reis and the Bucs, feel like his support is something the team was missing in the program's first year, which will greatly benefit ETSU in 2009.
Many of the players look to Reis for support not only on how to fix things with their game, but also when they do well. Not only is Reis happy to be a part of his own development as a soccer player, but also the development of his teammates.
"His leadership off the field is equally valuable," said head coach Scott Calabrese. "He is a very mature and intelligent young man, and he is not afraid to speak his mind whether it is well received or not. He confronts problems and issues head on, and that makes some players uncomfortable. It is vital to the have this kind of leader on the team, because in the end he is speaking the truth and his aim is only to improve the team or players performance."
"When it comes to taking on the role of a leader I have learned a lot," Reis said. "I really enjoy being a part of what is going on here at ETSU."
At first, Reis was worried his style of communicating and being very involved would not be accepted, but the team has taken to Reis' role like wild fire. Furthermore, his teammates encourage him to shout directions throughout each practice and match.
"Guilherme was a critical addition to our team," Calabrese said. "He is a very composed and intelligent player. He reads the game very well. His ability to organize the back four to prevent breakdowns or step in himself at a critical moment to lay down a tackle, has improved our defending considerably. I also believe our younger players have learned a great deal from Guilherme as he helps them understand how to position themselves and better anticipate the play."