Guildford reaping rewards of US football experience

Kate Guildford in action last season for Tusculum University in the South Atlantic Conference competition. Photos: Supplied
Kate Guildford in action last season for Tusculum University in the South Atlantic Conference competition. Photos: Supplied
Central Otago woman Kate Guildford is reaping the rewards after taking a leap of faith.

The 21-year-old has been making waves in the United States over the past two years as a talented footballer.

She is on a four-year American college scholarship and is studying for a bachelor's degree in science at Tennessee's Tusculum University.

Now she is encouraging other athletes back home to follow in her footsteps.

Guildford has no regrets.

''The idea of going overseas to study and play, there's a lot of kids in Dunedin that have the ability to go and do it.

''It may seem really scary and, of course, you get homesick sometimes, but for the benefits of education, travelling and playing, it covers all bases.''

Kate Guildford enjoying some down time during her off-season break
Kate Guildford enjoying some down time during her off-season break. Photo: Adam Burns
Guildford was awarded the scholarship through international scouting organisation National Scouting Report (NSR) after the then Columba College pupil attended a clinic in Dunedin for a ''kick around''.

''I didn't think that much of it.''

By 2017 she had made the move to Tennessee.

Already she has been a key figure in the Tusculum squad which includes 12 international players.

Last month the midfielder was awarded the most valuable player for Tusculum's 2018-19 season in the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) by fellow team-mates.

Kate Guildford demonstrating her ball skills.
Kate Guildford demonstrating her ball skills. Photo: Adam Burns
During her second 16-game SAC season, Guildford scored three goals and delivered 12 shots on goal.

When not working part-time in Cromwell, Guildford has been turning out for Dunedin Technical, which she has represented since 2011, during the college summer break.

She had to quickly adapt to a rigorous training and playing schedule which involved weights and conditioning most mornings, and up to two games a week.

''There's a bit of travelling involved. You have to prepare really well with school work and keep on top of everything.''

However, her attention has never been far from her Dunedin Tech squad, with which she has won three women's premier league titles.

Last year, she watched her team-mates win the inaugural NZ Football Foundation Kate Sheppard Cup from her dorm room via Skype.

''My step-dad set the laptop screen up in front of the TV so I could watch. I was in tears after they won.''

Next month she returns to the US for a third college year and the 2019-20 SAC season.

As the Football Ferns and Junior All Whites compete on the world stage, Guildford remains grounded about her footballing aspirations.

''You always set high expectations and high aspirations but at the moment I just play for the love for it, wherever it takes me.''

adam.burns@odt.co.nz

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