Off Pitch is the occasional blog from Roustabouts member Roger Graham. Follow Roger on Twitter at @rogman99
Fans can rejoice because midfielder Brady Ballew re-signed with the Tulsa Roughnecks FC over the winter. Brady (or St. Brady as the Roustabouts affectionately refer to the midfielder) will look to follow up on a season where he scored 6 goals (including the inaugural goal for the franchise) and 4 assists. Brady was also a finalist for the USL Rookie of the Year award and started in 20 matches for the ‘Necks. I had a chance to reflect with the 23 year old Seattle-native on his success from last season and find out what he’s been up to since we last watched him net a goal during the last match of the season.
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During the off-season, Ballew had the opportunity for some travel. “Me, Chad [Bond], ‘Dav’ [Iarfhlaith Davoren] and [Cristian] Mata all went to Thailand and we were there for about two and a half weeks, just playing and doing some touring. [From there I] went to England to visit my girlfriend and got a chance to train with Cambridge United.” Cambridge has several players on loan from the EPL and play in the fourth division of English soccer.
“I STARTED DOING YOGA…”
Brady says he relished his time training with Cambridge, and that he learned a lot about how to be a professional and how hard he would need to work every single day. “They really know how to flip the switch, when it comes to practicing, and I want to bring that to our team.”
What has Brady been working on in the off-season? “I’ve been focusing on shooting across my body, being able to open up my hips before I finish. It makes the goalkeeper think a split-second before I shoot. In order to get more flexibility, I started doing yoga. It really helped my flexibility and body control. I’m also always working on my speed and quickness as well.”
ON 2015: “THE ODDS WERE STACKED AGAINST ME…”
At the beginning of 2015, Brady started at left back as a defender. “[I’d] never played left back before and here I was, coming from college to the professional game, playing a new position in a new league where I had to rely on my off-foot.” Brady is right footed and many left backs prefer using the left foot. “The odds were really stacked against me. Looking back, it was the best thing for me, getting thrown in [at the beginning of the season]. After a while, I was benched because I wasn’t doing very well. David and I had a conversation.” Coach David Irving knew Brady wasn’t a true left back, but encouraged Brady and reassured him that he would have a chance playing his familiar position on the wing.
After getting his visa, Iarfhlaith Davoren then came on board at the left back position, which allowed Brady to move up to the right wing. “We, as a team, started to gel and I got my confidence back… It was a bit of a rocky start, but at the same time, I’m grateful for getting those starts early in the season and getting that first goal of the season.” Brady also expressed his gratitude for all of support and encouragement he received from the Roustabouts.
“WE HAVE A VERY TIGHT LOCKER ROOM”
Brady said he first felt like last year’s squad really became a “team” during the away trip to Seattle. “They were top of the table and we were in a bit of a hole, and it felt like it was now or never to make a big push. We put up 5 goals on them and most were great team-goals. We started believing in each other and the locker room; we had camaraderie in the locker room and we were all buzzing after that match! We all went out that night and bonded even more. We have a very tight locker room.”
“I WANT TO BE THE MOST FIT GUY ON THE FIELD”
Brady talked about his goals and expectations are for 2016. “Making the playoffs is the obvious goal. Anything can happen once you’re there. Would I like to say, ‘I want to double my assists and goals’? Sure, but it’s hard to set expectations, just because there are so many aspects you have to control on the midfield. My goals are more fitness-based- I want to be the most fit guy on the field. If I’m the most fit person on the field, I can contribute the most on the field. I can get back on defense, move up on an attack, and I can help on anything. I’ve also learned a lot from the older guys on the team, they are very helpful!”
Brady talked about the fans and, specifically, about the Roustabouts. “You guys are insane! We are so lucky to have you all as fans. We could not have dreamed up the fan participation that we had in our first season. Every practice we talk about you guys and our goal celebrations with you.”
Off the pitch, Brady also shows his creativity with music. His Soundcloud account updates with new jams semi-regularly, begging the question, when will we get a concert here in Tulsa?
Long live St. Brady!