Kelsey Hood, a captain on the 2008 University of Minnesota soccer team that won the Big 10 Championship and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, is playing for FK Donn in the Toppserien. Toppserien is the premier league for women in Norway, and a top-five league in the world for women's soccer. She has been living in Kristiansand, Norway - a beautiful little city of approximately 80,000 people on the southern tip of Norway - since January after serving as the Gophers' volunteer assistant coach last fall.
FK Donn is back in the Toppserien after winning the First Division last year. Donn has not been in the top league since 1995 when legendary Canadian striker Charmaine Hooper played for them. Once they were promoted this past year, Donn started pursuing the services of players from the U.S. and elsewhere to upgrade their roster for this season. Enter Kelsey Hood. Hood was recommended by several, including Gopher Head Coach Mikki Denney Wright and also Shannon Smyth, a former two-time All-Conference player at Louisville and UW-Milwaukee who had already signed on with FK Donn. Hood and Smyth are now roommates in Norway along with Kristin Eggert, a three-time national champion goalkeeper from Wheaton College in Chicago, Ill.
Hood's impact was immediate in the preseason training, so much so that she was nominated by the organization to represent Donn at the Toppserien Media Day in Oslo before the season. She has gone on to start every match and play most of the minutes primarily as a defensive central midfielder - the same position she patrolled for four years as a Gopher and the same one where she earned All-American and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008.
At last report, Donn is currently 4-5-2 and sitting in the middle of the standings after being picked in the preseason to finish last by members of the media. They have already earned points against the two league favorites which have many established Norwegian full national team players. Norway is currently #6 in the FIFA world rankings. Donn most recently took down previously undefeated and league leader LSK Kvinner 2-1 with Hood getting credit for the game-winning assist. Her parents Shannon and Brent Hood were in the stands and reports suggest that their vocal exertions contributed mightily to the historic victory just as they did when Kelsey was playing for the Maroon and Gold.
What They're Saying in Norway
"Kelsey is a dream-player for a coach who always brings on her best by a good attitude, hating to loose, and eager to get the team to a higher level. She plays alone as a central midfielder in a 4-5-1 formation and has been a well-known and respected player for the other teams in the top division."
Tommy Egeli - FK Donn Head Coach
"Kelsey Hood arrived on a cold winter day in January 2010. From day one she has impressed the whole club. She is one of our key players and a fantastic person to have in the club. She has never missed training, and is always ready to do her best. We consider her to be one of the best players in the league, and she has already become a little star in Norwegian Women's soccer. Donn is very proud of having Kelsey Hood in our club, and she is considered to be one of our best signings ever."
Nils Christiansen - FK Donn General Manager
I live in Kristiansand, Norway which is a beautiful little city surrounded by fjords and little islands. The city is what I would call the Florida of Norway. Everyone has a summer home in Kristiansand and the population almost doubles during the summer months.
When we first came over the language barrier obviously played a huge role in our settling in. I would go into men's bathrooms (seven times and counting!) and buy gravy thinking it was a stew. I would get nervous when someone spoke Norwegian to me so I would answer with "YA", and end up accidentally buying some foot cream at the mall!!
My funniest story was when I slept over at a teammate's place and got up the next morning to work out and thought I saw a bottle of Echinacea (which clearly I misread, I blame it on the sleepiness), so I took two and went to lift at our gym. Turns out I took two Xanax and was struggling to get the elliptical machine to turn on (which as you know those machines are already plugged in!)! I was riding that machine as if I was climbing Mount Everest!! I then met my two American roommates at the bus stop and I was holding three bags of groceries, which I don't remember buying. They took me home and I slept for about a day and a half! Rule number one.....don't take pills that you aren't a hundred percent sure about....lesson learned!
Donn is a new team in the top division and we are not expected to stay alive in the top league for more than this year. I am confident that I have developed the leadership skills and performance skills it will take to help keep this team in the top league. It will not be easy and every game is a war, but I take pride in being apart of a team that is laying the foundation for generations to come.
I think my first couple years at Minnesota molded me as a player and person. We were not the best team technically or physically but our coaching staff always had a great tactical plan of action. Coach Mikki taught our class that respect isn't given; it has to be earned on and off the field. My freshman year I don't think I have ever worked that hard in my life. That freshman year set the foundation for us to succeed by my senior year. Another thing Minnesota soccer taught me was to be independent. Nothing is given to you; you must go out and work hard to earn what you deserve. I think moving to a new country and being able to adapt when you cannot even speak the language is a harder task than people think. It's very lonely, but I knew I had to grind through the first couple months to get to where I am now.
My team now reminds me a lot of the Gophers during the 2005 season. We are known in Norway for our defensive work ethic and pressure, but we are still having trouble scoring. Our team is extremely hard working and every game is a fight to survive!
I love coming to underdog teams and surprising people! I love the fact that no one expects us to win a game all season and we have crushed that idea already! My goal for this season is to survive the first year in the Toppserien and not get relegated because that is what everyone outside of the club thought would happen at the end of this season. I want to at least finish in the middle of the pack so we can continue to build on what we have. Waking up in the morning knowing my job is to go work out and go improve on my game is the best feeling in the world! I am maturing as a player and as a person. I realize now how important it is to take care of your body! I am in probably the best shape of my career and still working on reaching my potential. I am living a childhood dream and I couldn't be anymore happy! I hope to be playing abroad for many years to come!