Emery Welshman : Survival Mode

Emery Welshman is a Toronto born Guyanese professional footballer who currently plays in Israel. After navigating North American Pro soccer with successes and setback, he tells us how he got there:

As a kid you really don’t know how hard it is to make, what you really have to go through. A lot of the time people don’t realize you have to be lucky to actually make it. People wouldn't believe how grassroots playing in Canada back then really was. We didn’t have pro teams like more established countries in soccer, it’s more straight forward there. There was no means to our end when it comes to pursuing soccer when I was growing up.

But I always felt soccer was serious to me, even when I was young there would be times when I would want to go for a run or a kick about with my brother I was always eager to do it. It was always soccer even though my family, my dad especially kept on me about planning my future smartly. I had heard about the provincial team from a friend I would get rides with to practice. That was the story of club soccer in Canada back then no structure no clear way to progress up the pathway. At this point it was another word of mouth situation this time with a new club setup Sigma FC who I was able to join after impressing and it changed my pathway, my career, my life. The coaching, professionalism and structure was unlike anything Canada had ever seen before. They opened my eyes to the pathway I didn’t know about before which was going to play college soccer. I was able to play against kids older than me and develop as a player the quality and speed was quicker and that really helped me out I developed quick, quicker than people expected me to.

By my senior year I had guys telling me I’m good enough for the next step to college soccer, so I though I have to be good enough if people are telling me. I’m scoring, assisting doing all the good things on the field as an attacker so I started to commit to schools which was huge for a kid coming from where I’m from making that next step

I really didn't have that much knowledge about schools in the states, I had offers from all over the country but I chose Siena because of the relationship I had with the assistant coach there. Having a coach that sees your value as a player can make or break your career. To be honest I wasn’t really kicking on at Siena the first few games, I was playing out of position and when they eventually did move me up front, I started destroying defenses. Physically and pace wise. I remember I scored the overtime winner against Boston College a team we had no right beating and I went on to win rookie of the year for the conference. I set my sights high and I said in an interview the start of my second year I wanted to win player of the year and some people were surprised, but in my mind it was like why not I believe in my ability so why not.

My second year is when I really gained national traction and got a lot of awards and honors and ended up winning the player of the year for the conference. It was around this time my assistant coach who had originally scouted me sat me down and said something that opened my eyes and was new. He said “I’m not telling you what to do Emery, but you have to leave next year, you have to move on and find a bigger school in a bigger conference so you can go to the league”.

From there I saw the pipeline of strikers Oregon State was producing and I thought it was the perfect fit for me. Before I even kicked a ball at OSU I was getting told if you have a good year you’ll get drafted and go professional, it was overwhelming to take it but I had learned a lot in college about myself. I’d learned in a competitive environment you don’t want to be the loudest one in the room. You don’t want to have the reputation of being a loud-mouth. Just let your talking be done on the field that’s the best way to gain respect of older players or guys on the team without letting them push you around. That’s how I viewed it I couldn’t worry about the draft just do my thing on the field. In the end I felt I had a good Oregon state career earning national honors and gaining national attention

Going into the draft it was surreal because it still hadn’t hit me of what was going on. I’ll never forget my Siena coach sent me a picture of me on national TV being highlighted as one of the best picks going into the draft. MLS formally invited me and my family to attend the draft and put us up in a hotel and flew us out. That’s when it started to sink in I could be going pro. I was overrun with emotion. What’s next? Who am I going to play for? At the time it was overwhelming but looking back now it was just the beginning. A lot of young players get to this point and think they’ve made it, they’ve completed their dream when really it’s just the start of the real hard work, becoming pro is hard but staying a pro is the real challenge.

Being drafted by Toronto, my hometown club, was a blessing.Its something I'll always be grateful for. Growing up there and going away to play college and come home in that way is a feeling a lot of players never get to experience. My time there was difficult in all honesty. The expectations going in were so high and the fact is that I just didn’t understand how to be a professional yet. I didn’t understand that people are always watching you, watched and evaluated by people inside the club. How you carry yourself, your professionalism. I was still in a mindset that it only mattered about what you do on the field. I wasn’t doing the extra reps or getting in the gym when I didn’t have to.

Older pros took me aside and told me you can only control what you control. You can control your training effort, your mentality when you show up to training, how early you get there, if you do extra gym sessions. Even if you’re not playing an experienced veteran told me “you’re not playing for them, you’re playing for you and what’s next”. You’re always preparing for what’s next, if you’re not playing here then train as hard as you can and get yourself ready for your next opportunity, I learned you’re never too cool to do the right things and train hard and I’ve kept that with me until this day.

Getting released from Toronto was tough, and I had a spell where I didn’t play professional football for a calendar year, just at home at sigma FC finding myself and going through life’s turns such as declaring for Guyana for national call-ups instead of Canada as well as preparing for the birth of my first son. Sometimes you have to take a gamble on yourself, because you have to trust and believe you’ll be able to pull through and I was fortunate to score on my Guyana Debut and get called in for a trial at Real Salt Lake.

Having a second lease on my career like this contrasted to my earlier years at Toronto because I was in survival mode, I thought to myself “Don’t **** this up, it’s do or die if you don’t do it here its over, you have to provide for your son and girlfriend, it’s do or die.” Because in reality there were people doubting me. But I was able to prevail and earn a contract with RSL Monarchs. Suffering some setbacks through injury and having a double hip-surgery meant my time was up at RSL, and I took another gamble going to Puerto Rico FC but when you gamble on yourself you back yourself and when I performed well there it opened the door for more career moves, a path to a steadier career. Playing regularly at FC Cincinnati and earning an MLS contract before a minor setback had me moving back to my new hometown team Hamilton Forge on loan. There I was able to connect with my old Sigma coach and old teammates. When the opportunity after Forge arose to go to Israel where I am now I had to take it another gamble to move my family to a country I’ve never been to and speak a language we don’t know for me to back myself again.

Throughout everything at the end, I’ll always have my Journey with Guyana and scoring the goal to send my country to their first major tournament is something that will always be with me. Of course, we as a team got there but it was a major moment for me in my career and especially knowing how proud it made the country as well as my family feel. Seeing tears in their eyes and the joy they had of their brother, nephew, cousin representing Guyana with the Welshman name on television, in the papers and being able to hear the Guyana national anthem in the Gold Cup will always be something I’m proud of. It made every sacrifice and setback worth it.

The dream was to ‘make it’ professional and get that first deal. Now I'm closer to the end, I look back and see that's only half of what I wanted. When it comes time to hang the boots up. I want to be able to look back and enjoy the process, the experience of a long successful career to me. I want to inspire people to be relentless when chasing their dreams. Most importantly I want to make my family proud.

that is the dream.

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