Exclusive Interview with Ross Paule
I recently had the opportunity to interview former Metro Star (among his many accomplishments) Ross Paule. Ross is currently the Sports Director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was a terrific player in his prime, which was unfortunately cut short due to effects from multiple concussions that he sustained during his career. It’s easy to look at Ross and wonder what could have been considering that he had to stop playing when he was 29 years old. Recently, he was inducted into the Creighton University Athletic Hall of Fame. You can watch a video of the acceptance speech that Ross gave and clearly see that Ross truly enjoyed and appreciated everything that his playing career gave to him.
SLI: What are your responsibilities as the Soccer Director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes?
RP: FCA National Soccer is a National Soccer Specific Ministry. My job is to support all FCA branches across the US with any soccer needs or resources needed. My job is also to set a direction and focus across the US with our soccer ministry.
Ultimately our vision statement sums it up: To see the soccer world powerfully impacted for Jesus Christ through the Influence of the players, fans and coaches. Our four areas of focus are the Youth Club Soccer World, Women’s Professional Soccer, Creating/ Gathering a Christian Soccer Resource Bank, and Support FCA Staff across the US.
SLI: What qualities do you feel made you the ideal person for this position?
RP: Well, I hope that people see Christ in me in who I am and what I do now and what I have done in soccer. I know all I have in soccer, all my experiences, my success and failures, is given from Him and my goal is to become all He made me to be.
SLI: How do you feel that religion and soccer are connected?
RP: You can connect religion to anything. For me it is more about a relationship with God through Jesus than a religion. It is up to the individual to allow God in to all parts of your life. Soccer is just one part of who we are but God wants to be involved in all we are.
SLI: What are the Realpro Soccer Programs?
RP: Realpro Soccer Programs are soccer specific programs to help children learn and grow in the game through camps, individual and group training, and coaching clinics. My camps are in the summer and over Christmas. I do individual training all year around.
SLI: What else are you looking to accomplish in soccer?
RP: Soccer has given me so much and I want to give back as much as I can. Right now I am focused on the youth game but who knows what other opportunities in coaching could come my way. I would love to look into coaching at a college program or in MLS in the future. The main thing I want to accomplish is to help encourage and help players achieve their dreams and enjoy it.
SLI: Looking back now with the opportunity to reflect, what are your feelings about your career as a player?
RP: I am proud of what I did and all the hard work it took. There are so many sacrifices you have to make in order to be consistent. I wish my career wasn’t cut short with my “Post-Concussion Syndrome” and believe I had a lot more to accomplish on the field but love what I do now.
SLI: What are some of your greatest memories from your playing days?
RP: Columbus Crew, in 2003. We had a wonderful group of players that all got along very well and the team was the most successful and consistent team I have ever played for. We loved playing together and had one of the best regular seasons in MLS history.
Going to the Final Four with Creighton University was an awesome experience. I loved traveling around the World with Soccer from with the US Youth National Teams, my Pro teams, College and Youth. So many amazing experiences.
SLI: What was it like for you to get to play in New York with the MetroStars and how did it compare to the other teams that you played with?
RP: Playing for the NY/ NJ Metrostars was different simply because of the media. The media was very much in tune to the team by having multiple TV and papers at every game. They were not afraid to love you at one moment and the next throw you to the dogs, but honestly that is the sport world. The fans were awesome to me there. They supported me very well. Living in NY was a challenge for me with everything so spread out and crowded. I grew up in Memphis and then went to Omaha to school so this was a change.
SLI: Do you still feel any effects from the concussions that you occurred during your career?
RP: Yes, I still have lingering effects that I deal with but have learned how to cope the best I can so it doesn’t impact me too much.
SLI: What do you think should be done to improve the safety of the game in order to prevent other players suffering from the effects of multiple concussions?
RP: Just continue to pursue as much info and knowledge from past players experiences. The main thing for me is for each to care enough to get a baseline test done on the players, so that when a concussion happens, there is something to gage how bad it is and if they are ready to get back on the field.
SLI: What do you think are the major differences between the time that you played in MLS and now?
RP: In the beginning of my career in MLS, there was only one soccer specific MLS stadium, but now all the teams have beautiful stadiums. I love seeing the fans in their own stadium supporting their team now. What a great atmosphere for them and the players. I believe the level continues to get better each year as soccer grows in the US at the youth levels.
SLI: Did you ever have any opportunities to play abroad and if so do you regret not taking advantage of them?
RP: Yes, I had the opportunity before my MLS career to play in Werder Bremen but chose to stay back in the US with Creighton for one more year. Not sure I regret it but do think about how different my career would have been. I do believe that I would really consider it more in these days as more US players are going abroad and seeing the success. It is important for our US players to go to Europe and play in that environment and be challenged. I believe coach Klinsmann says it right that when we have US players playing in the Champions League on a consistent basis, we will really take our US team to higher places.
SLI: What do you think needs to happen in order for the U.S. to be a force in international soccer and for MLS to achieve sustainable success to the point that its teams can compete with the best in the world?
RP: We need our best players playing in Europe for the best teams around that compete in the Champions League on a regular basis. I believe our MLS teams can compete with the best in the world in our environment here in the US. When teams come to play friendlies with MLS teams, we usually do pretty well. But that would be different I believe if we had a team in their environment. All leagues are so different and hard to compare with so many different factors with weather, stadiums, fans, pressures but it all boils down to the level of players. I believe MLS is getting stronger each year with US born players and MLS is now getting some high level foreign talent too so we are headed in the right direction.
SLI: What do you think it will take for soccer to become more popular within the world of American sports?
RP: For MLS to connect to the youth game more.
SLI: What do you feel is the best way for the U.S. to develop its young talent?
RP: We need the best coaches at the lowest level and our US Soccer Program needs to support this.