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UTR! Diaries: I’m excited about what’s to come, says UTR! talent Kyra Taylor

Eight promising Singapore youth footballers were awarded the inaugural Unleash The Roar! Overseas Scholarship in August 2023 to further their football development in either Spain or the United States. The talented male and female footballers, who are between the ages of 15 and 17, have been training hard at the IMG Academy in Florida and the ESC LaLiga & NBA in Madrid. In this series, we hear from these athletes on how they are coping with life overseas.

Kyra Taylor, 17, IMG Academy

I have two prized possessions here in Florida. One is proudly displayed by my bed and the other is in a stash in my room.

Both have to do with Singapore.

One is the Singapore flag. It hangs proudly in front of my desk to remind me of why I’m here - to develop into a good footballer so that I can hopefully do Singapore proud one day.

In the thick of action during a Tampa Bay Super Cup match. I enjoy the football here and especially like how much attention they place on personal development. Photo by IMG Academy

The other is my stash of Singapore food and mixes that I brought with me. Mi goreng instant noodles, nasi lemak with chicken rendang, muruku snack, monster noodle snack - these are my guilty pleasures. And I've added another comfort food - my dad recently brought over with him my mum's chocolate chip banana cake which I missed so much.

One thing I miss dearly is definitely all the local Singaporean and Malay food. I have been craving prata, nasi lemak, ayam penyet, and especially my mum's cooking - basically just all the foods back home!

I wouldn’t call it being homesick. It’s just that nothing beats Singapore food. It’s really something you can’t easily get anywhere else in the world, especially the US.

The Singapore flag is one of my most prized possessions in Florida. It reminds me of why I'm in the United States - to develop into a good footballer so that I can hopefully do Singapore proud one day. Photo by IMG Academy

Apart from the occasional cravings, the last three months here at the IMG Academy have been great. It’s really a conducive place to both study and train.

I’ve settled down well here in Florida. I recently scored my first goal and that’s always good for my confidence. I’m really looking forward to gaining more exposure and playing in more matches and competitions.

A typical day/week here:

The day starts off with school at 7.40am. We have about two to three classes and will usually be done with school by about 11.20am.

That gives us enough time to do some work, squeeze in a power nap and eat lunch before training starts at 1.40pm. Within training, we have 10 minutes of Active Dynamic Warm up (APD) everyday when we work on agility and speed before we begin our 90-minute training sessions. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we head to the gym and lift for around one hour after training. During lift, we are given exercises or circuits to work on. On some days we go hard, reaching our max limit, while other days are a bit lighter.

Training around four to five times a week with games on the weekend is exhausting, but is definitely worth it and fun, getting to play the sport I love.

Video by Kyra Taylor.

Approach to training, football:

One big difference is that they call it “soccer” here. Sometimes when talking to them, I would say “football” and they think I mean American Football, which gets confusing.

The coaching staff are very big on personal development and creating a connection with the players, which is something I really like. We have individual meetings where we discuss next steps, we look at game footage together, seeing what I did well and what I could improve on and also discuss strengths and weaknesses.

I find this very helpful as it tells me what areas I need to work on in order to grow and how I am able to work on them.

During the very first day of training, I was extremely nervous, seeing that all the girls are a lot bigger and stronger than me.

They were all already friends and had their own groups so it was a bit hard to mingle. However, as time flew by, we eventually separated into our teams and that's when things started to change. I began to bond with my teammates, and training became not only more enjoyable but also more intense.

Me (top row, fifth from left) with my wonderful teammates from the Under-19 premier girls team. Photo by IMG Academy

I've developed strong connections with my teammates, both on and off the pitch through team bonding activities as well as spending time together outside the pitch. Overall, I feel like I'm settling in well and getting to know everyone in my team. I'm excited about the progress I've made.

The overall level is a lot higher than in Singapore and the intensity of play is also higher. That means I have to make quicker decisions as I won’t have much time on the ball. This has forced me to improve decision making on the pitch, resulting in me being more efficient with the ball.

My first goal:

My team is currently playing in the Sunshine Conference League, one of 13 conferences in the US Youth Soccer National Leagues programme.

We have games almost every weekend against other teams in Florida. We took part in the FYSA State Cup and made it to the semi finals, winning 4-3 after a tight 120-minute game. I scored my first goal during extra time, where the ball got crossed in and I hit it first time to the bottom left corner.

It was a great moment and everybody was celebrating this huge win - especially since we were down 0-2 and had to stage a comeback. Scoring my first goal was a great feeling, especially after having hit the crossbar a few times before I finally found the net.

My Singapore support system:

The support from my fellow scholarship recipients has been great and very comforting. Being in a new environment, far from home, can be a bit daunting. But knowing that I have others here with me, being able to talk to them, it makes it a lot more comfortable and easier to settle in.

For the first few weeks, we explored the campus together and got to know our way around which was nice. We walked around, got familiar with how to get to the school, the football pitch, physio, gym, just everywhere. It was nice to have them around and talk about each of our experiences so far. I can say that I have definitely bonded more with the other scholars and gotten closer to them.

On/off field:

On the field, I am looking forward to more games, getting to travel with the team overseas to another state or potentially another country, creating a stronger bond and having better chemistry with the team. I also want to get stronger so I can be more competitive.

I plan on maximising my experience here by giving my all during matches and training, trying to get as much match time as possible. I hope to use these opportunities to create a highlight video and use those to get into contact with college coaches as I look forward to my next stage of development.

Off the field I'm looking forward to going out with new friends,exploring Florida and the USA a little bit more.

I feel like I'm settling in well and getting to know everyone in my team, in school and around campus. I'm excited about what's to come during my time here.

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