A Leap of Faith: American football in Europe
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
You may think that, for an overseas football player, playing in Paris may be the dream on which you focus. However, for Sean Shelton, his dream took him a bit further. His dream pushed him to take a leap of faith and “climb up the ladder” to eventually discover where his heart truly belonged.
His first stop after finishing college at William Jewel, a Division 2 school, was in Paris under the Elancourt Templiers where he played for one season. Then, he jumped to Helsinki, replacing the injured quarterback of the Helsinki Roosters. However, this stop didn't grip him fully either; Helsinki wasn't his dream.
“Fall 2014, it was quite a decision for me because what I wanted to do [was] to play in front of people, for a prestigious club that was professional, and have professional coaching,” Shelton stated in the 28th episode of The Globally Ballin Podcast.
From his checklist, it was the Swarco Raiders Tirol in Austria that was able to fulfill and check the boxes and so from the many clubs that arose after his last stint in Helsinki, he eventually moved to Innsbruck where the club was based.
“I decided that I want to try to climb up the ladder in football to get to the top and so it was gratifying for me to know that I took the step in the right direction,” he said.
However, Shelton did not fail to look back on the experiences that brought him to where he is now, specifically his pioneer experience in Paris where he admitted that he was extremely challenged.
“I was thrown on the fire, being an American abroad, especially Paris, they don’t really help you,” he said.
“You have to figure out on your own – the metro system, you have to be able to cope with the foreign language, you have to be okay in uncomfortable situations,” Shelton added.
On the other hand, his experience in Helsinki was considered an upgrade in terms of club structure as his experience under the Elancourt Templiers was quite light and comfortable, with much more extra time to do leisure stuff aside from games and practice.
For Shelton, the Helsinki Roosters were much more structured, had better coaching and the players were more disciplined especially with more complex games to play.
Sean Shelton advises anyone who has interests in playing overseas to do their own research by talking to current and previous imports of a specific country to gather their experiences and takeaways.
“Reach out and get their advice because all that stuff is easily overlooked but also very important.”
Shelton has, already, been in Austria for 6 years living the life he wanted, playing for the Raiders, as well as, working as the youth director for the club. He noted that he has grown roots over there, in the country where he got married. Together Sean and his wife look forward to what the future holds for them.
Shelton now hosts a podcast called, "He Has a Bird." Check it out, today. In addition, you can follow Shelton on Instagram to get an inside look at his experiences while playing and living his life in Austria.
This piece was written by Carla Molina, a common contributor for Globally Ballin
The entire interview of Sean Shelton (Episode 28 of The Globally Ballin Podcast) can be found with the links below.