The third season of professional soccer in Louisville kicked off
this past weekend with Louisville
City FC earning a draw with Saint Louis FC. For those of you that follow club and
high school soccer in the Louisville area, there was a familiar face in
the starting eleven. Former Mockingbird SC (now Kentucky Fire Juniors)
stand-out, Richard Ballard, lined up on the right wing for his hometown club in
the first match of his professional career and did not disappoint.
Before earning his first professional cap, Ballard answered a few
questions about growing up in the Louisville soccer community and offered some
advice to younger players hoping to see themselves don the Louisville City FC
kit in the future.
When did you start playing soccer? Did you
play any other sports growing up?
started playing soccer when I was 3 years old for HYR. Then I played for JYSA
where my dad coached me until I made it onto the U9B team at Mockingbird when I
was 7. I also played basketball and tennis growing up.
What was it like growing up playing soccer in
up playing soccer in Louisville was a great experience. We definitely didn’t
have the best resources, playing on some fields with divits and grass up to
your mid-calf. I’ve played on almost every field and park in the city, but it
only made me that much more appreciative of where I come from. There was only
club soccer in Louisville and Kentucky so I played for the best one,
Mockingbird, my whole time. There was a lot of talented players in Louisville
though so it made for a good soccer community and competitive atmosphere.
You played your college soccer at Indiana.
What made you chose IU? What are some of the highlights from your college
IU because of their incredible soccer history and tradition. My last coach at
Mockingbird, John Michael Hayden, played and won 2 national championships with
them so I knew all about the program and how prestigious it was. When I was
invited to a training session for the top 50 players in the region, it was held
at IU’s indoor facility Mellencamp. After that I had gotten an email from them
saying they were interested and I immediately wanted to go there and nowhere
else. I knew it was going to be a challenge playing for them but I wanted to
and go to play for the best. Some highlights from my career would be playing in
and winning a National Championship and Big ten All-Freshman Team my freshman
year. On to my senior year where I was a captain and second-team All-Big Ten.
Another highlight would be beating the U-20 Mexican national team my senior
Spring and getting an assist and goal in the 2-0 victory.
What advice would you give youth soccer
players on preparing for college soccer?
I would tell them to train harder. No matter how hard they think they are
training, or how good they think they are, there is someone better out there
and training harder who is competing for your spot. I would tell them to prepare
themselves to not be the best anymore and to let that motivate you to work
harder. Every player coming to a D1 school is going to be the best from there
team so you will be fighting for a spot against the best players in the nation
and sometimes overseas as well. I would tell them that they need to be
physically prepared because you will be playing against guys 4-5 years older
than you and potentially much bigger and stronger. I think a big one is for
kids to understand how important good diet and good sleep is for them and can
make or break their career. I would tell them to be mentally prepared for
anything. It will be a new coach, new team, new lifestyle but to always keep
you love and passion for the game. Lastly, I would tell them to watch more soccer.
Kids are playing too many video games and watching the wrong shows when they
should be studying the game and taking advantage of any chance they can to get
better. I know I wished I would have trained more and watched more soccer.
You recently signed with Louisville City FC.
How does it feel to be the first hometown player to sign with Louisville City
incredible feeling. Once I found out we were getting a pro team a couple years
back I was extremely excited. When I went to my first game I was even more
amazed by the support from the Louisville community and was very hopeful for
the future of the team. To be able to play in front of my hometown crowd will
be an unbelievable feeling. I know my family just as happy because they’re all
in town and get to come out to the games and support. To be the first hometown
player is a great feeling and I hope it drives the youth to want to do the
same. I know Louisville has and continues to produce some of the best talent in
the nation so I’m sure we have future Louisville City FC players in the making.
I think the youth should understand what an incredible opportunity it is to
have a pro team here and take advantage of the situation.
What are you most looking forward to during
your first year with Louisville City FC?
looking forward to bringing home a championship just as I was in my first year
at IU. I know how we did last year and the talent we have this year makes me
look forward to the trophy.
What are your goals for your soccer career?
Any plans for life after soccer?
goals are to play and win championships at the highest levels possible. The
next step is to make it to the MLS or play overseas and continue to enjoy the
game playing at the highest level possible. Really, I just want to play the
game I love for as long as possible. Plans for life after soccer are really
just plans once I’m done playing. Soccer is my life and I don’t think it will
leave my life. I plan on coaching some but in the future focusing on the
strength and conditioning, nutritional, and physiological aspects of the game.
I want to help bring out the best and maximize the potential in the youth
Any final words of wisdom that you’d want to
pass on to the next generation of KFJ/Mockingbird SC players looking to take
their game to the next level?
tell them to never settle. Even when you think you are the best and you think
you have trained enough, train more. If you want to take your game to the next
level then you need to take your training and lifestyle to the next level. Be
committed to the game and never settle for less than you are capable. In the
midst of all that, I would tell them to enjoy it. Love the game and stay
passionate for it.