Inferno Alumni Success Story: Tesa McKibben

Tesa McKibben is living her lifetime dream of playing professional soccer, and she earned it through hard work, dedication, and an outright love for the game.

McKibben played 3 seasons for the Lancaster Inferno before ending her fourth season early due to an offer with the second division of the Women’s Bundesliga (or Frauen-Bundesliga), the highest league in Germany.

Prior to her career in Germany, Tesa had a number of enviable accomplishments. While playing at Montoursville Area High School, she became Montoursville’s all-time leading scorer (130 points) and won a PIAA championship in the Warriors’ blue and gold (2008).

During McKibben’s four-year college career at Division I Saint Francis University, she tallied 70 goals and 40 assists, both of which are school records. She was named a four-time NEC Player of the Year; this accolade helped her earn an honor of being one of Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” in 2013, an accomplishment McKibben admitted was a huge dream growing up.

She was the first four-time Northeast Conference Player of the Year in women’s soccer history at Saint Francis. After graduating with a degree of science in Exercise Physiology, she was invited to try out for the U.S. women’s national team and was offered a spot to play in the Brazilian Cup.

Tesa was transferred to FC Saarbrücken in January 2015. In a recent Q&A we asked Tesa about her experiences in Germany.

Q: What has your overall experience been moving from the US to Germany?

A: I have absolutely loved my last year in Germany. There have definitely been some times that I miss home, but when I remember that I’m living out my dream as a professional player, those thoughts disappear rather quickly.

Q: What has been the biggest adjustment that you’ve had to make? food, culture, etc.

A: The biggest adjustment that I have faced is definitely the language barrier. Initially, I had thought it would have been food, but realizing that the supermarkets are basically the same (plus and minus a few things), I had no problem adjusting. The culture is definitely different over here but in the best way possible. Everyone here moves rather lethargically and with no hurry at all- it’s refreshing (but also sometimes frustrating if I am in a hurry). The people are so friendly and welcoming, even after they learn I don’t
speak German.

Q: How is the game (soccer) different from what your experience in college and with the Inferno?

A: Training is a lot more laid back. Fitness isn’t really incorporated into the training sessions and it’s not really a big focus over here. One of the weirdest things to me is that we have yet to watch any game film on the teams we are playing or even on ourselves. In college, we did that at least twice a week so to not have that option of seeing yourself and bettering yourself week to week is kind of difficult. Games are very competitive. The entire style is different here, especially in terms of defense but I kind of like that. It requires me to look at the game in a different light and to constantly adapt and improve myself as a player.

Q: How would you rank the level of play in your current team/league compared to previous experience?

A: The level of play varies depending on the teams that we play. Currently I play for FC Saarbrucken; we are in 3rd place in the Southern part of the 2nd division of the Bundesliga. From what I have seen, there is a sizable difference in quality from the top 6 teams and the bottom 6 teams. I would say that the top 6 teams are some of the better players I have played against in my career and they definitely challenge me as a player.

Q: How have you handled the language difference?

A: The language difference is hard in regards to a social aspect. Germans speak extremely fast and unfortunately, Saarland (the region of Germany I am currently in), has a very strong dialect that German natives don’t always understand. This makes it really difficult to get a full grasp on the language. But, on the field, I have been able to learn most of the words and phrases our team uses. At first it was hard to program my brain to spit out German instead of English but now it’s almost immediate. I have a feeling when I come back to the US and play pick-up that I will be directing players in German which is kind of crazy to think about.

Q: What advice would you give other female players considering playing in Europe or Germany in particular?

A: My advice is that if you’re given the chance to go overseas, take it. Whatever is keeping you in the US, will most likely be there when you come back. Making the decision to pack up and move 4000 miles away was one of the hardest I will ever make, but what this is experience has taught me about myself, about the game, and about life in general is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world. If you’re a younger player and your dreams are to play professionally, do not ever give up on that. Your future is in your hands and with hard work, dedication, and an outright love for the game, you will get to where you want to be; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

McKibben has not seen much action this season due to an ankle injury. We look forward to her continued success after her rehabilitation.

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