She might have stayed inside the United States, but for part of this summer, soccer junior Jordan Jarzombek felt like she was studying abroad.
The Sam Houston State forward from Spring received her first national team invite this summer, but it wasn’t for the United States Women’s National Team. It was for a country she’s never been to: Poland.
“As an athlete, you never think that’s the kind of opportunity you would get it,” Jarzombek said. “Everyone in the camp spoke Polish, so you had to learn it or else you weren’t going to understand anything.”
Coaches who represent the Polish Football Association reached out to Bearkats eighth-year head coach Tom Brown when they were looking for American players with Polish descent. The name Jarzombek traces to Poland, and the coaches asked Brown about his player.
“The camp would provide her the chance to play with some very good players and also expose her to some further coaching,” Brown said. “Hopefully she impressed the coaches during her week of camp, and they will continue to track her progress in college.”
Jarzombek flew out to Michigan in July for the weeklong camp from July 12-18 with girls across the country. From there the camp was like any other summer camp, except with a little Polish taste.
“We got all our meals set up,” Jarzombek said. “We all stayed in one big room. We had bunk beds and all that. You got to bond with everybody. We had two-a-days; practice in the morning, practice in the evening. They were all Polish foods, so technically you didn’t know what you were eating.”
Her Polish descent comes from her father’s parents’ great grandparents. Not even knowing how to say “hello” in the language, Jarzombek had to pick it up quickly.
“I did not know any Polish at all,” Jarzombek said. “But all the cooks, all the people who live in that camp spoke it, so we had to learn how to say ‘thank you,’ ‘you’re welcome,’ ‘yes,’ ‘no.’”
Besides learning the language, Jarzombek also had to learn how to play for the Polish coach.
“The Polish coach is a lot different,” Jarzombek said. “Of course, every coach has different styles of play. It was a lot different just to know how it is to train with another coach from another country. At first it was kind of hard to understand him, but it came really easy because his daughter played on the team.”
Jarzombek has tallied four goals in her three-year Sam Houston career including two during the Bearkats' 10-6-5 campaign that saw the team advance to the Southland Conference tournament finals for the second time in the program's history.
Coach Brown commends her ability to get behind the defense and finish shots.
“We have continued to work on other aspects of her game and she has continued to become a better player,” Brown said. “Any player that can score goals is of interest to international teams.”
One of the things Jarzombek said she saw improvement in her play while at the camp was her confidence. She said some of the things that don’t work in her style of play at Sam Houston were able to work at the camp.
“I took the camp as there’s nothing I can lose,” Jarzombek said. “Some of the things the Polish coach taught me, I took back here to use for Sam. The coach taught me that I need to play calm and just let the thoughts run through my head, make sure to open myself up and be willing to accept different styles of play.”
Even though she’s gotten this first invite to train for the Poland Women’s National Team, she knows there are still things in her game to perfect for her senior season at Sam Houston next fall and hopefully get more camp invites.
“The first touch is always the most important thing. If you have a bad touch, you’re going to lose it right away,” Jarzombek said. “College soccer isn’t something easy, and everybody here knows how to play. Another thing I would say [to improve on] is probably just getting the ball at my feet and being able to hold it with pressure.”
Jarzombek said the Polish FA plans to have another camp for the U.S. and Canada women sometime this spring or during the summer next year.