Going from one state to another can be a difficult process, but moving to a different country is another thing entirely. University of Kentucky freshman soccer player Kristoffer Tollefsen is currently going through that transition.
The Sandefjord, Norway native moved to the United States this summer after being recruited by head coach Johan Cedergren, who discovered Tollefsen through a contact he has in Scandinavia. The first-year head coach watched some video on Tollefsen and liked what he saw, so he planned a trip and flew overseas to meet with Tollefsen and his family.
After sitting down with the Tollefsen's, Cedergren found the family to be very humble with an athletic background. Tollefsen's father was a former professional handball player and was a member of the Norway national team. The visit turned out to be a major success for Cedergren.
The transition has gone surprisingly well for the freshman midfielder. Tollefsen was fortunate enough to be joined by fellow Norwegian Isak Krogstad, who is a freshman forward on the squad, which helped make it a smooth process.
"The adjustment has gone well, surprisingly well actually," Tollefsen said. "Definitely having Isak around has been a big help. We actually just started talking English to each other. Both of us are learning the language better and I actually did my first load of laundry a couple weeks ago so I think things are going great."
Cedergren agrees that having Krogstad around is helping Tollefsen become more comfortable at Kentucky. One thing Cedergren wants his players to know is that he is always there for them if they ever need anything.
"I think it's never a bad thing to have two kids from the same country where the two of them can share stories with each other in Norwegian and relate to each other," Cedergren said. "What I've told both of them is that I'm expecting a lot of them while they are here for four years and like every other player my door is always open and if they have any issues they can come see me."
Soccer isn't the only commitment Tollefsen has on his plate. Academics play a large role in a student-athlete's schedule and Cedergren is particularly adamant his athletes stay on top of their studies.
It can be very overwhelming with all of the scheduling, especially for an international student. That's where help is needed and the academic advisor for men's soccer, Mike Haley, has done a tremendous job guiding Tollefsen through the process.
"Someone you have to give credit to is Mike Haley, our academic advisor, who is fantastic in terms of getting their schedule set up and tutors," Cedergren said. "That is one of the worries you have with internationals but Mike is great and he makes sure all of the guys do their assignments and get their schedules squared away."
Tollefsen has sprinted out of the gates through his first three games as a Wildcat, starting every game and leading the team with two assists. Standing at six feet tall, Tollefsen owns an advantage over opponents with his height, which allows him to win most headers.
His play on the ball and his knowledge of the game are what stand out to the coaching staff and his teammates. He brings a style of play that makes the offense flow and stiffen the defense.
"He helps us defensively and offensively in the center mid and never really loses the ball which keeps things going for us," senior midfielder Cameron Wilder said. "He's doing a great job and makes really good decisions. He's one of those players that's always trying to make himself better in training."
This weekend, the Cats play host to the UK Invitational where No. 4 Charlotte, St. Joseph's and Stony Brook will join them. Kentucky will face St. Joseph's on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the UK Soccer Complex.
The match will mark the first home game for Tollefsen and the rest of the Cats, who are seeking their first victory of the season. Tollefsen is eager to play in front of the UK fans and he feels the team is playing well and a win is on the horizon.
"I'm looking forward to playing on the fantastic field we have and in front of the fans," Tollefsen said. "I think we have played some good soccer and we just have to get 90 minutes together now to get a win because we need a win. There is nothing about the talent in the group, we are playing some good soccer so we just have to get it together for 90 minutes."
Overall, UK has been a smooth transition for Tollefsen. He is continuing to get adjusted to the weather and meeting new people but that will come with time. He is a hard worker and fits right into Cedergren's coaching style.
"It's been very good here," Tollefsen said. "His help since I got here has been great. His training is hard and tough but I like it that way and I think we have to train that hard. I'm getting used to the heat and the players and making new friends and its going great."