Sunday, July 22, 2007

Scott Vallow: Goalie / Captain of Rochester Rhinos

Scott Vallow:
Train Like a Champion

By: Joseph W. Norman

For more from Bigger Impact co-founder, Joseph Norman, visit
Enjoy the read about...Scott Vallow...below! Thanks for your readership!

Scott Vallow is captain and goalkeeper of the Rochester Raging Rhinos, a United Soccer League First Division team. After graduating from Bowling Green in 1998, he signed a professional contract to play with Major League Soccer’s Dallas Burn. From that point on he has lived the professional athlete’s life, moving from place to place, before making Rochester, New York his home. He has led the Rhinos to a few championships, his first when he joined the team in 2000. That same year he was named A-League Goalkeeper of the Year and A-League First Team All Star. Now, in his ninth year, after a few more team and individual accolades, he continues to make an impact both on and off the field.

Over a delicious lunch at one of his, and the teams, favorite places, First Taste on Park Avenue in Rochester, he had a few things to say about his life’s work…

The most recent season has brought on some hardship for Scott in respect to his soccer play. In practice after the second game of the year he suffered a bicep injury which left him debilitated.
VIP: You suffered a bicep injury recently correct?

Scott: I made a save in practice and hyper-extended my arm at the elbow which put too much pressure on the tendon. They drilled a hole in my forearm and attached the tendon on the backside of the hole with a titanium button. We are waiting for the bone to calcify a little more so it can sustain more pressure. The doctor is afraid of the full extension save with a ball coming 70 plus miles per hour which would snap it right back off. We’re shooting for August 1 as a come back date.

The frustrating part is if I was a field player they could brace me up and I could play, but since I’m a goalie they certainly can’t have a one armed goalie out there. It is not acceptable.

The team is doing alright though and I can still practice everyday.

Rex the Rhino

VIP: How long is the professional soccer season?

Scott: Preseason starts in the middle of March and the season lasts until the Championship in late September. It’s a good six month season. The hope is if I can get back August 1, there are seven regular season games left plus the playoffs.

VIP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Scott: I was born in Medesto, California. We spent about ten years there. My father has worked for Coors Brewing Company for about 25 years so we traveled a lot - we just kind of moved around the country. He is pretty successful at what he does, so they have always put him in key markets. We lived in Colorado for a few years then went to Minnesota, and then to Naperville, Illinois which is where I did most of my growing up. That was where I did all of my junior high and high school. I went to school at Bowling Green, Ohio for four years. At that point, the age of 21, I signed a contract with the Dallas Burn for Major League Soccer.

At that time if you had school left, you could play for a program that was called, the Nike Project 40, it is now called Generation Adidas. Guys that have no eligibility left in school but need their degree can sign on as professional athletes. As soon as you sign a professional contract, you are immediately ineligible for college play. For me, I just had one class left, but I still qualified. It is made for those young studs like Freddy Adu.

VIP: What was the Nike Project 40 Program like?

Scott: By default, being a part of that program you get to train with your major league team during the week and travel around and play Project 40 games on the weekend. They play in the A league on the weekends. Each MLS team would have two or three Project 40 players. The thought process is you can train at a high level and still get the competition on the weekends to make you a better player.

I wasn’t happy being third string goalie in Dallas, so I asked to be released from the program to sign a contract with Rochester. I signed a one year contract in 2000, we won a championship and I became goalkeeper of the year. I came in here and really tried to prove something, because I wanted to go back into MLS. But, nobody wanted to give me a number one job.

VIP: How does Major League Soccer work?

Scott: How the MLS works is the league owns all of the players, so you can’t go to Chicago and say, “What will you pay me?” and then call up New York and say, “What will you pay me?” The negotiation is strictly with the league. They say, you are 24 years old, you’ve played this much, here is your salary. I could never get the number one money, so I signed back with Rochester. In 2002, I left and went back to Dallas, then in 2003, I got picked up by the Colorado Rapids – ending up back to Rochester in 2005.

Back up goalies in MLS are like an insurance policy. I was that guy, but I was making a good wage, so they didn’t see much value in having an expensive insurance policy. I was a bit of a salary cap casualty. So, I called Rochester back and just re-signed prior to this season for three more years.

VIP: Tell us a little bit about your family.

Scott: Rochester is my home now. I just turned thirty and I have a wife and a seventeen month old son. We have a house. Most people in this league don’t have a house because the club provides apartments, so most players just live in those. But, we decided that we wanted to live how we wanted to live for as long as we can – whether it is one year, ten years, or our whole life.

We didn’t want to live in an apartment and raise a kid - that was not what our life was all about. We can always put a for sale sign on the house. Not too many professional soccer players can say they have some place where they like to be and could be for the rest of their lives.

My wife and I have a very healthy relationship – we’re in a good spot right now. I’m very happy with how my life is progressing; personally, professionally, and with business. It is kind of all taking off.

VIP: When did you get married?

Scott: I got married in 2003. Is this a test? (Speaking into the recorder) “December 20, 2003, honey.”

VIP: Did you ever think about playing overseas?

Scott: For the most part you have to be on the U.S. National Team to even be considered. In fact, you have to be a substantial part of that team to even be considered. You can go on trial and play for a team for a week, then move on to another. I have always demanded a high wage, so it wasn’t a big deal for me to travel overseas. For some of the younger guys it might be a bigger deal.

My wife is a career woman; she has a full time job in pharmaceutical sales. For her to give that up to go to a foreign country was more of a family decision. Now, we have a seventeen month old son, so it just doesn’t make sense. For the last three and a half years we have been in baby phase – so we made the decision to stay in the states.

Many U.S. players go to Norway now because there are few restrictions over there. For the older guys it is more of a process. Goalies mature at an older age, so it doesn’t work out quite as well. As much as I would love to play in England, I’m not even eligible so even though they asked about me, it would just be too difficult to make happen.

VIP: What are some of your goals?

Scott: My original goal was to play for ten years – I am currently in my ninth. But, like I said, goalies don’t really mature until later in their soccer careers. It is a position based on experience; the more you have been in a specific situation, the more you recognize it and know it for next time. The more games you play the better you get. There is certainly a learning curve, a plateau and a decline. I still feel like I’m on the way up. I still feel like I’m learning and goalies certainly play well into their mid to late thirties. So, I’d like to put another six to eight years in.

I have a degree in sales and marketing. Now, I’ve been doing this soccer camp stuff. I started to do this when I was in Colorado playing for the Rapids. A guy called me up that had a son who played goalie, he said, “I’d like you to train my son.” So, I started to meet with this boy and a few friends of his every week to train them. It was good money. I thought it was going to be kind of like babysitting. The drop your kid off for an hour and go get a cup of coffee type of stuff to get a break. But, to actually tell the kids direction, have them do it, and then find success doing it is an unbelievable experience.

So, I started my goalkeeper training program, “Train like a Champion.”

VIP: Tell us a little bit about “Train like a Champion” with Scott Vallow?

Scott: Basically it is a camp structure; we do clinics, camps, and academies. I have a relationship with the Greece Soccer program. We do two six week camps.

I teamed up with my teammate Matthew Delicate and we do a goalkeeper/striker camp. We cap it at 15 kids because we pride ourselves on getting the individual attention. We don’t hire staff to help run the program, we do it all ourselves. We have ten programs; 4 in Rochester, 3 in Buffalo, and we just signed a contract for a camp at a Syracuse facility. We nearly sold out in both Syracuse and Buffalo, so we are looking to expand. Right now, it is a really good program – we keep it small and intimate. Ours is the complete opposite of Doug Miller’s camp whose motto has always been get as many kids as possible.

Matt Delicate
We want “Train like a Champion” with Scott Vallow to be training like a champion with Scott Vallow. We do different colored shirts for our different camps. We also give the drawstring shoe bags – we try to add value to the program without spending a lot of money. Matthew has his own sponsorship deal and so do I. We appreciate all of our local sponsors as well - they all really help us out. (One of Scott’s sponsors is Chris McVicker, VIP and Chairman of The Flanders Group). Who knows how far it can go?

I never thought I would like it, but I really enjoy it and there is certainly a market for it. Parents will pay a premium to have their kids play with a professional athlete. We need to make sure the kids in youth soccer are training the right way. That is what I might do – I’m not sure if my wife agrees with me – but I like it.

VIP: Do you enjoy traveling?

Scott: We enjoy traveling in the off season – a family vacation and one with just my wife and me. We have tons of friends out in Ohio, so we might drop our son off with my parents in law in Pittsburgh and then travel on to visit some friends for a weekend here and there.

VIP: Who is someone you admired in soccer while you were a child?

Scott: I’ve always liked the U.S. National Team program: Tony Meola was one of my idols. He was the captain of the U.S. World Cup team when I was growing up. I played against him when he played for Kansas City, then we chatted after the game and we swapped jerseys – so that was pretty cool. I have it framed at my house.

VIP: You have a degree in Sales and Marketing from Bowling Green, what are your thoughts on sales?

Scott: I’m a big relationship seller. That is the way of doing business now. My dad, as I told you, has spent 25 years at Coors. He is in charge of eight distributors in all of Indiana right now. He has such a good relationship with his clients, so growing up and watching the way he sells was awesome. It’s crazy – the way he does it is different from all of the new techniques. He develops relationships with distributors so they can work together and collectively meet goals. It is a good philosophy.

VIP: What are your thoughts on training?

Scott: My philosophy on training has always been go one hundred percent for as long as you can. As goalkeeper we do everything in sets and repetitions. For me, it doesn’t do me any good to collect eight balls if I start to get tired after six. You don’t want to start promoting bad technique as you start to get tired. Certainly it is important to work through that fatigue factor, but you want to make sure that you work as hard and effective as you can.

For example, we will do a sequence of something and then do it again, and again, and again. I think it is better to do four or six of those things, rather than ten. Do what you can at 100% for as long as you can. That is what I always tell the guys on the team since I’ve been captain. I say, “There is no reason to save gas in the tank. If it is only 60 minutes, that is fine because we can find someone else to fill in. Then next time maybe you’ll go 65 minutes.” Go as hard as you can, as long as you can, and then we’ll make changes if we need to. I always train how I play - no shortcuts. Work as hard as you can in practice so the games become easy.

You want to work two or three or ten times as hard, so when you get in the game it is cake – no big deal; short and sharp as opposed to long and drawn out. I am more of a proponent to that. I have a set agenda, hour and a quarter – we get in and out. It keeps you focused.

VIP: What are your thoughts on weight training?

Scott: Mostly in the off-season - I follow a book called Body for Life by Bill Phillips. It is basically a lifestyle change of eating right – five small meals a day. It also incorporates training – a pyramid type lifting routine. Increase the weight and lower the reps; than go back down. You do a twenty minute treadmill workout – faster and faster, than slow it down. He says the best way to train is get the heart rate up and then take the heart rate back down – over and over.

Also, it says to eat zero raw sugar, tons of fruits and vegetables, high protein, medium to low carbohydrates. On Sunday though, you can eat whatever you want – pizza, Big Macs, beer, martinis, whatever. My wife calls it “Sunday Fun-Day.”

That’s what I do mostly in the off season. It helps me refocus and get back into it. Also, I take one complete month off after the season. I do a lot with core strength, speed, ply metrics, medicine ball workouts, and other things. I lift maybe once a week during the season.

VIP: How has it been managing the injury?

Scott: It has been tough – very tough. In nine years I have never missed one practice. So, all of the sudden to be out hurt is kind of a shock to everybody and more of a shock to me. I still go to practice everyday – I take the team through the warm-up, cool-down, and sit-ups. I’m still a part of the locker room presence. Also, it is good for the guys because I serve as a liaison between the players and the coach. They can come to me and I can tell them what coach might say. That is a big part of it. I warm up the goalies everyday – giving them as much advice as I can.

It is still a team sport, it’s not the Scott Vallow show. So, the ultimate goal is to try to win a championship. I try to help the team in anyway I can.

Also, I started to do a lot of community service. We have the program “Reading with the Rhinos” – so I’ll go read to kids and tailor my talk to what the district’s issues might be. The whole team does it, but I have taken on more of a role because of the injury. Also, I’m one of the higher profile guys, so it works out.

The injury has made me not take my body for granted. It has given me a new perspective on competition – knowing that any game could be your last. I sat down with the players right before the game after my injury and I said, “You never know when it could be your last game, so make sure you take advantage of this one game right now. You know you are going to play today, but you don’t know if you’re going to play tomorrow.”

VIP: When did you kick your first soccer ball?

Scott: I started when I was about six. I was never a goalie until I was about fourteen years old - I was a forward my whole life. Then it became a year round commitment and I decided on being goalie.
VIP: How do you define success?

Scott: In professional sports is certainly winning championships. At the end of the day, how many rings do you have? That connects people forever. Last year we made it to the Championship and we lost. It was devastating because that one moment could have defined the whole group. Certainly guys have had great careers without a championship. Dan Marino – best quarterback to never win a championship. I’m sure he would trade a lot just for one ring.

In life it is about being happy, being comfortable, and being able to look yourself in the mirror before you go to bed and know that you did as much as you could for your personal life and professional life that day.

Every night I go to bed and I say, my son went to bed at 7:30 tonight, but you know what, I played with him until 7:29. If for some reason I have an individual lesson or I’m out and I don’t get much time with “my little guy” then it kills me. That is kind of how I live my life, almost on a daily basis. I like to be able to say, “Today was a good day.” Then, I give my wife a kiss and go to bed or maybe watch a little television.

VIP: What are some of the ways you help your teammates as Captain?

Scott: All the time we get guys to come in for one week. Sometimes those guys get signed and somebody gets benched. Players will come to me and ask, “What am I supposed to do?” I tell them, “All you can do is work as hard as you can everyday; do everything you can and everything you are supposed to do. Then when you go to bed at night you know that you did everything you can, so if the coach wants to choose somebody else, you can say ‘I’m ok with my personal performance.’” You have no one to blame but yourself if you start taking shortcuts.

My philosophy is whatever the coach says goes. Never talk bad about anybody – bite your tongue and take it for what it’s worth. Support the coach, the city, and your teammates.
VIP: What are some of your hobbies?

Scott: I love to cook and I love to go shopping. I’m a Wegmans-aholic. I probably go to Wegmans four times a week.

I mean for us (Rhinos), we work 10 AM – 12 PM, so we’ve got a lot of free time. We have from 12:30 to whenever to do what we want. I hate to read. I like to read magazines and newspapers, but I don’t like to read books. I’ll read the front and the back and then I’ll look for the Cliff’s Notes. My wife does all the reading.

My top two hobbies are playing cards and cooking. Also, I love hanging out with my family.

VIP: What are some of your favorite T.V. shows?

Scott: I like crime drama; the original CSI: Las Vegas, although I have branched into CSI: Miami - not as much a fan of CSI New York. I love Shark with James Woods.

I like that reality TV as well but not so much Flava of Love. Lately I have watched more of the Disney Channel though with the little guy.

VIP: What is some advice you would give someone coming out of college?

Scott: You’ve got to be tenacious. I talk to my guys all the time about the “Two T’s,” talent and tenacity. Sometimes talent isn’t good enough, so you’ve got to be tenacious. It is tough to have one without the other and achieve success. Dedication, determination, and desire are important too. In “Reading with the Rhinos,” we talk about having a healthy lifestyle, staying in school, being respectful and making quality decisions. It is pretty much the same speech no matter what age you are.

Think before you act with decision making. Forget to set your alarm before you go to sleep at night and you sleep in. It’s a small decision, but if you miss a meeting it could have a big impact on you.

Surround yourself with quality people. You don’t have to know everything as long as you surround yourself with people that know more than you. Then, a lot of times you’re better off.

Joe, Scott, and Ben at First Taste on Park Avenue

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Scott Vallow
Captain / Goalkeeper
Rochester Raging Rhinos (Website)
Train Like a Champion with Scott Vallow (Website)