Oliver Saundry worked hard each and every day to hone his skills and build the discipline, mentality and skills required for the next level of football. Oliver was one of the first student-athlete intakes into the Pacific Elite Soccer Institute and after two years graduated from the program.
Working with the team at PESI, Saundry found a home in the top tier of Danish football, with SønderjyskE Elitesport's U19 team. SønderjyskE compete in the Danish Superliga. PESI caught up with Oliver to check in on his experiences in Europe and more.
1) Firstly, How has the season started off for you? Do you feel you are adjusting and settling in well? Moving to SønderjyskE; a new club, a new country and a new environment was a lot to take in. At the same time it's very exciting. Adjusting to the game speed, learning the team’s system and earning the respect of my new team takes time. Everyone at the club has been very supportive and I feel I have adjusted to the environment and already formed strong relationships with my teammates and coaches.
2) Biggest highlight so far? As of now, I would say that I have two on the field highlights. First being my second game during our training camp, when we played AC Horsens, I had a solid game - I made some big saves to help us secure the win. The second highlight was another friendly that we won over HSV U19. It was great to play in Germany and experience their style of play. The HSV facility was amazing and it was a great marker for us as a team to demonstrate our quality as well as depth. Although these standout, the season matches of course have also been very exciting, playing strong opposition.
3) Anything you have found difficult or slightly harder to adjust to? I found one of the bigger challenges was trusting my abilities and playing with confidence. Playing inDenmark has always been a dream, so it is a bit intimidating at first. When I first arrived I definitely wanted to make an impact and earn the respect of the coaching staff and players. I was likely too focused on that and was not as relaxed as I normally am and didn’t have consistent performances.
The training and coaching staff here are amazing and it didn’t take long for me to get comfortable and relax. I am fortunate to be able to work with the team coaches, team physiotherapist, sports psychologist and sport science coaches.
4) How did your time at PSI help you? PSI helped make the relocation and living away from home easier as I attended the institute for 2 years, so it really helped me mentally prepare. The training schedule at PSI was very intense, this helped me quickly adjust to the professional environment. PSI also introduced us to a very structured and disciplined environment, which is designed after the professional academies in Europe.
5) What were some of your biggest lessons/take home messages? The biggest thing is to trust in your capabilities. Relaxing and having fun is key to playing well, otherwise you end up overthinking everything.
6) Is there anything now that stands out or hits home even more now that you have entered the European environment? Everything, the European environment is extremely competitive. The professionalism, the facilities and training are second to none. In game situation training such as 4v4, you can not be switched off, every player treats it like a season game.
7) Any advice/comments for players now entering PSI and players trying to make that next step? You can always do more to improve. Something as simple as doing a stretching and strengthening routine before bed can make a big difference. In such a competitive environment you have to do extra work outside of training.
Also don’t get too caught up in your long-term goals, take it training session by training session, game-by-game - that way you don’t get lost in the big picture - remember to enjoy the journey and experience.