Former national footballers speak on transition during college

Akeilah Hillhouse (right) is with President of CONCACAF Victor Montagliani. Former national netballer Shenneth Samuel on tour with the West Indies netball team back in 1991. Georgetta Lewis (left) with teammates during a national team outing.
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By Carlena Knight

One former national footballer describes her transition from high school to the US collegiate level as a tough one.

Akeilah Hillhouse, the former Combined Schools and SAP player turned president of the club, spoke openly about her struggles with injury during her playing career. Hillhouse first played at the University of South Carolina Upstate and then Webber International in Florida.

“The transition from high school to college was extremely difficult, especially because I had just finished my ACL reconstruction, so in terms of physically that was hard for me,” she said.

“Somewhat I was still the go-to player but it was a situation where I couldn’t play for 90 minutes most of the time. So, if we needed a goal, coach would put me in, get the goal and then take me out so I could do my rehab. I realised after the surgery like taking free kicks and so on, I wasn’t interested in doing that anymore.”

Hillhouse, a trailblazer in her own right having been the first woman to be head coach of a local football team, Freeman’s Village Scorpions, and the first woman ever to play in the Antigua Premier League, opened up about when she found out that she needed knee surgery.

She says despite the severity of the injury itself she was not as worried as her relatives.

“From the get-go, like two days after the last game I played before the injury, my knee had swollen really badly. My coach Robert Baird looked at it because he made it a habit of himself to educate himself in every aspect and right off the bat, he told me this seems like your ACL; I think you are going to need surgery and two days after I knew.

“My mother, she cried a lot, but for me I was like, well I have been playing for a while and I’ve injured people before so it’s just my turn now,” said Hillhouse, speaking on the Good Morning JoJo Sports show.

The Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) vice president, however, admitted that despite having three knee surgeries it was the recovery period which concerned her the most as it not only forced her to change her game drastically but limited her as well.

Another former national footballer, Georgetta Lewis also spoke on her transition to college in the US. Lewis, like Hillhouse, shared that injuries plagued her but it was the structure of the game that was her biggest task while at Iowa Wesleyan University.

“I tore my ACL and meniscus in my freshman year and, yes, the recovery is rough and when I went back it was a struggle but with hard work and plenty rehab and physical therapy I was back in and the road kind of remained the same so I can’t sit here and say that it was a rough time but what I can say is the rules are a bit different than it is here,” Lewis said.

“Where we were able to be subbed in and out, rather than playing here and playing a full 90 minutes, so things like that for a while you know when you are used to playing 90 minutes and you’re at it full force until you are pretty much tapped out but in college I had to readjust and know when you are going in, you have to go in a hundred percent.”

Both Hillhouse and Lewis however shared that they were blessed to have been given the opportunity to play at the collegiate and national level. They are encouraging young female athletes to work hard at their craft and to balance the academics.

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