Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime

As I sit at the hairdressers now writing my very first article whilst having my hair extensions put in, I can’t help but to laugh at the irony of this situation. Here I am, hoping to write a column over the next season to try and break the cliché of the modern WAG and who we really are, and so far this sort of start may not be helping that but here goes anyway…………

A new term at Stoke City

And so it begins, the start of another new and exciting year for Stoke, freshly seasoned with the anticipation of a new manager, new faces and new style of play at the club and of course, my very first column! So let me kick off by welcoming you to my new home game feature, which I hope you all will enjoy reading this season.

This exciting opportunity allows my husband Asmir and I to share with you a little extra insight into the mechanics that enables our personal life, my Olympic dreams to compete in dressage and his football career to intertwine and coincide. Here is a backstage pass as to what really goes on behind the scenes of a footballer’s life and you may be surprised and disappointed to learn, for example, that Asmir does many ‘normal’ day-to-day chores. You will often see him frequenting a local supermarket, shop or walking our dog when he isn’t busy travelling or training.

So a little bit about me……….

You’ll have to patient with me, as this is uncommon territory. Over the last 7 years I have been with Asmir, it has become second nature to roll his biography off the tip of my tongue without hesitation with well-rehearsed facts about him and his career. But me? I have never really had to answer that question so publicly as Asmir is so familiar with. 

I was born and raised in the United States splitting my time between the rolling Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee and the hot and happening beaches of Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida. Western riding and Rodeo’s were prolific in my Tennessee hometown of Mountain City and that was the start of a life long love affair with horses. Relocating to the UK when I was 10 wasn’t the easiest of transitions for a child so it was the horses that I turned to for assurance and familiarity, and that’s when I was introduced to Dressage and was instantly hooked.

It was in my second year at University studying to be an accountant that I met Asmir who was then just trying to break into the first team at Portsmouth from the reserve ranks. What got us talking that fateful night was that it was interesting to hear someone else with a North American accent in Portsmouth-and since then I don’t think we’ve stopped talking yet!

The ‘Dancing Horses’

The London 2012 Olympics produced ‘our greatest team’ many will say and what a year it was. It is London 2012 and our double gold in Dressage for Team GB in the individual and team event that I have to thank for catapulting my much adored and loved sport of dressage into publicity on a global scale. Where many had never heard of Dressage before, here it was suddenly being recognised everywhere as the sport of the ‘Dancing Horses’. It is often a miss-understood sport with little knowledge as to what it entails such as how anyone could possibly make the horse ‘dance’ and do movements such as the piaffe, passage and pirouette. I could go into some detail of that now but there probably wouldn’t be any print space left in this programme. Perhaps I will try another time?

So why am I talking about the ‘Dancing Horses’ or dressage? Well over the course of my column, I am looking forward to sharing how Asmir and I are working together to become top athletes in our respective sports. Sharing day-to-day events and training updates and letting you know what we are up to. Dressage is a way of life for me everyday. I eat, sleep, drink, and obsess over my sport in the same way Asmir does with goalkeeping and football. That has certainly been a true blessing for me that Asmir can fully understand the commitment I must make to get to the ultimate goal in my sport, as I do for his. I am in training at the moment with the hope of going to the Rio 2016 Olympics (horsepower allowing) to be the first individual to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina in Dressage. It’s become my full-time career but I couldn’t think of a better job for me! 

So are footballers and horses related as sportsmen? Well really it all boils down to one massive comparison-here goes- competition horses are like footballers and footballers like competition horses. Incredible athletes in their own right born and developed to be the best in their respective sports. Attributes not exclusively learned but inherited and instinctive as though it were their destiny. 

Like footballers, competition horses require the upmost care from daily dietary management, training, physical maintenance and support. Just the same as footballers require an indeterminable amount of care and support from so many vast areas of sports management. What sets the top dressage horse apart from the sports-horse crowd is that it is an elite equine athlete comparable to the strength and flexibility of an Olympic gymnast along with traits such power, prowess, refinement and intelligence.

On that note, I am signing off from my first column and I am looking forward to the first game after a much-anticipated start to the season. After a lovely summer break with the family we are all raring to go. It is getting to see Asmir and team play together every week that validates the separation from their families, daily sacrifices and the time they commit to their careers. Here’s to a great 2013/2014 season for Stoke City and I look forward to sharing the journey with you at each home game this year.

Nicolle x