Johnny Nelson shares his experiences with the USA Youth National Teams
To represent your club is a great honor. To represent your country is the greatest. Internationals Academy's own, Johnny Nelson, has been fortunate enough to do both and at a very young age. Through hard work, sacrifice and determination, Johnny continues to impress us all as he not only reaches his goals, he surpasses them. At the same time he continues to be a great student, an outstanding role model for our youth members and most important, a great person. We are all proud of you Johnny. Keep up the great work!
- Dejan Mladenovic - Internationals Academy
Johnny Nelson interview with Dejan Mladenovic 3.15.16
Dejan: Welcome back to Ohio! (For those who don't know you have returned from Residency in Florida and re-joined ISC and Medina High School.) How does it feel to be back home?
Johnny: Thank you Dejan! Being home feels great. I enjoy being back with my friends and family on a full time basis. This semester is my first time attending Medina High School, which is a good experience for me. Getting into the routine of going to school for 7 hours a day is different, but I don’t mind it.
Dejan: What was a typical day like for you in Florida?
Johnny: A typical day in Florida consisted of training, school and relaxing. Breakfast was served at 7:00 am, which prepared us for 9:00 am training. The trainings would be an intense session for about an hour and a half. After training, we would go to the gym for about 45 minutes, if not we would have ice baths. School was from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, and we would have the rest of the night to eat, relax, and do homework. Saturday mornings we would have a match then have the rest of the day to relax. We were given all of Sunday to relax and recover to start the whole week over the next day.
(I guess Johnny forgot to mention there were some pretty cool visitors during his "typical" days. NBA Legend, Steve Nash)
Dejan: How important are your studies to you?
Johnny: My studies are very important to me. I believe that a coach would want to have a hard working student on and off the field. Having an education is important in the world today, so keeping my grades up is a priority.
Dejan: You had the privilege to be a member of the USA squad that competed in the U17 World Cup in Chile last year. What was your favorite experience from that event?
Johnny: Representing the United States in the U17 World Cup was an awesome feeling. Knowing that all the hard work paid off, and I was fortunate enough to be selected for that roster. My favorite experience was playing against Chile, in front of about 20,000 fans. That was one of the loudest and intense matches I have ever played in. We did not get the results we wanted, but that allowed me to experience how good you need to be, to play at that demanding level.
Dejan: How did it feel to step on the pitch wearing a USA jersey to represent your country for the first time?
Johnny: Representing the United States for the first time was definitely a proud moment in my soccer career. We were playing in the 2013 Copa Mexico de Naciones. I was given the start in the 2nd game against Panama. I was nervous, but I knew I was ready for the task. I played the full match, and had a positive impact for my team. Representing the United States for the first time is an unforgettable moment.
Dejan: Who is the best player you have played with? Against?
Johnny: I have played with and against numerous great players, but I would have to say Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/USA) is the best player I have ever played with. Kelechi Nwakali (Arsenal F.C./Nigeria) is one of the top players I played against, and he received the award as best player for the 2015 U17 World Cup.
(Johnny & Christian standing together during the Star Spangled Banner)
Dejan: How did you and your Family hear about Internationals and what made you join at the young at of 8?
Johnny: A cousin of mine played with an older age group and he told my family about the club. I decided to try out because they were the best team in Northeastern Ohio. I was fortunate to be able to receive the best training at that young age, as it prepared me for future accomplishments.
(Johnny and teammates along with coaches Georgie Nanchoff & Dejan Mladenovic at Byers Field in Parma, Ohio)
Dejan: How influential has your time been at Internationals?
Johnny: My time with the Internationals has been very influential. At a young age, I usually played up, while playing against the best teams in Ohio, and in the Country. I was influenced by the players and coaches around me, which prepared me for the developmental academy league.
Dejan: How did Internationals prepare you to play for the United States Youth teams?
Johnny: Playing in the developmental academy league with the Internationals prepared me greatly for the U.S. youth teams. My first year of academy I got see the pace at that level. This prepared me for the level that I wanted and needed to be at, to compete with the best in the country. Internationals gave me the opportunity to be trained at a high level three to four times a week, with matches on the weekend. During our ten month season, we competed against the best teams in the Midwest region such as Chicago Fire, Michigan Wolves, and Vardar.
Dejan: What is your favorite Internationals Soccer memory?
Johnny: I’ve had countless memories with the Internationals since I joined the club. My favorite memory would have to be winning the USA Schwann’s Cup in Minnesota. We were U10’s playing in the U11’s bracket, and played the top teams from around the country. In the championship, we were playing the top team from Florida, which was a very intense match. We had to go inside the nearest building during the middle of the game because of thunderstorms and tornado warnings. We ended up switching fields to continue the match. It went all the way to overtime, and I’ll never forget the play where we won in the last few minutes off of a header.
(Johnny at U10)
Dejan: Who was your favorite Internationals coach growing up and why?
Johnny: My favorite Internationals coaches growing up would have to be Louie and George Nanchoff. Louie taught me the competitiveness I needed to win. He would always show his passion while coaching and developed me into the player I am today. George taught me the mental side, and how the game is played with your mind. You need to have the right mindset in order to be one of the best.
Dejan: What is your favorite soccer memory?
Johnny: My favorite soccer memory was when I was playing in my first tournament with the U.S. National team in Mexico. We were playing in the Estadio Azteca for the 3rd and 4th place match against Paraguay. I started and played the full match, but it ended up going to penalty kicks. I was the ninth shooter to go, and the person before me on Paraguay missed, which meant I had the chance to win it. I jogged up to the spot as I already knew where I was going to place it. The referee blew the whistle and I placed it bottom left side in the back of the net. I ran to the corner as my team started to trample me and that is a moment I will never forget.
Dejan: What advice do you have for young Internationals soccer players who want to grow up to be like you?
Johnny: The advice that I have for a young player growing up is that, success may not come right away and hard work pays off. I tried out for the National team as I was always trying to be in the full squad. I didn’t get called back after the first camp I attended, but I continued to work harder every day. I received an invite to a camp before Residency, which was a chance to be on the U17 Men’s National team. I knew this was my chance to make it, and every day before that camp for three weeks, I worked very hard. I would go to a local field for hours, spent time in the gym and run throughout my neighborhood. After receiving my invite to Residency, I knew all that my hard work paid off.