Know Your Rapids: Nathan Sturgis
* Brian Jennings has covered the Rapids for Soccer365.com since 2002. He has also written Know Your Rapids" features on Clint Irwin, Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown and Chris Klute. Feel free to direct any questions or comments to Brian Jennings on twitter @MLSfrom5280 or the comments below.
Nathan Sturgis looks to have finally found a home in Colorado with the Rapids, his sixth team in nine MLS seasons. Sturgis is quiet, unassuming, and goes about life similar to the way he plays the game he’s grown to love- working hard, no complaints, just putting his nose to the grindstone, doing his job - wherever that may be.
The middle child of a soccer family growing up, Sturgis basically found his way into this country’s top level of soccer without a lot of prodding or worship of the game. He discovered he was good at it and thought he’d see how far it would take him.
In 2013, Sturgis has set personal single-season career highs in a number of statistical categories, including most games played, most starts, minutes, and goals scored.
In this "Know Your Rapids" feature, among other things, Sturgis discusses growing up with the game in a big family back in Florida, his rise through the youth systems at the National level, and the other professional athlete in the family who kicks a different ball in front of huge crowds.
Question: I know you got started like a lot of kids but why did you stick with soccer?
Goal: Sturgis vs SJ
Nathan Sturgis: "I have three brothers and two sisters and my parents wanted to get us into sports, so we picked soccer. We all played and that was kind of our only option because they couldn’t have us all playing four or five different sports.
"I started out when I was 5 or 6 so I stuck with it. I ended up being pretty good at it so I just kept going. I liked a lot of other sports - I like golf, but again we only had time and the resources to play one sport so I focused on soccer and played others for fun. We had a big backyard growing up so we had some good 3v3s going with just the family.
"No (siblings) really picked on me growing up. My older brother and I got along pretty well. My two younger brothers would always get into it so I used to step in and protect our youngest brother. They were good at antagonizing each other and I’d have to step in and even the match because my one brother was a lot bigger than my other one."
How did you get involved in the National Team process?
"I started doing ODP (Olympic Development Program) when I was 13 or 14 and made the state team and regional team doing tournaments, so that’s how I got scouted by the National Team. I got into the ODP system as a freshman in high school and then went to residency. The best part about that was the exposure it gave you playing with good players every day, getting good coaching, playing good games.
"Where I grew up soccer wasn’t very big so the club scene wasn’t that great. Without that I really wouldn’t have had much opportunity to improve as a player. At 13 or 14 I was already playing U18 so I was kind of reaching my max where I was, so it was good to play with players that were better than me. As a young player that’s how you improve is to be pushed."
Goal: Sturgis vs Chivas USA
Who were some of your soccer role models growing up, who were you a fan of?
"Like I said, soccer wasn’t that big and we didn’t have cable growing up so I didn’t watch much soccer. I had no professional team around so I just went out and played. I didn’t know any players until I got into high school. Growing up, I just played."
How did you decide that it was time to turn professional and make soccer your living?
"After my freshman year (at Clemson) I played in the U20 World Championships and had a good tournament there. After that I was getting some interest from MLS and some European teams so I decided at that point to go back and play one more season then go MLS."
Q: You’ve moved around to a handful of teams in MLS, is it ever frustrating be a bit of a “journeyman” or getting used to a new team?
"It’s frustrating because moving is never fun, so it’s frustrating not to be in one place for a while and get consistent playing time. Any time you move it’s a new challenge and you try to do the same thing to work your way into the team any way you can.
"You never quite know coming into a new team and new system how you’ll fit in, but you try not to worry about that too much. You try to come in and play as well as you can and adjust as much as you can to what the coaches are looking for.
"So far this year it’s worked out pretty well, but it’s always a consistent learning experience to keep earning your spot. It’s the same game but every coach has little things has things they do differently, sometimes you have to adjust your game a little bit, but you’re trying to just play your game and show what you can do to help the team."
You’ve scored four goals this year after just one PK goal in previous seasons - where did the scoring explosion come from?
Goal: Sturgis vs San Jose
"It just came from getting playing time and the way we play I have more freedom to get forward. In the past I played more defensive because one guy always has to sit. Playing with (Hendry) Thomas he will sit a lot and that gives me some freedom to get forward. I like getting forward so it’s nice playing next to somebody who can help shoulder some of the defensive responsibility."
What does this Rapids team need to do to make the playoffs this year?
"For us, it’s just keep doing what we’re doing and stay confident. Coming into these last games there’s a lot of pressure and you can’t let that get to you. I think we’re good enough so it’s just having the confidence to go out there and perform. All we have to do is keep playing the way we’ve been playing."
What are some things you do outside of soccer when you get home, diet, things like that?
"I had been taking classes, doing some schoolwork. (Nathan graduated with a degree in finance since this interview was conducted). If I have freetime I like to golf but it’s tough to do that during the season. (Teammate Dillon Powers also considers himself a pretty good golfer) I’ve played with Dillon (Powers) and I don’t know if “good” would be the word to describe it."
Goal: Sturgis vs New York
"I eat pretty plain stuff - chicken, pasta - I don’t do too much crazy stuff. The one thing I’ll splurge on is a slice of pizza here and there so I keep it pretty simple."
What do you enjoy about Colorado so far?
"I like the weather. It’s outdoor weather. It’s not like Houston where you couldn’t do anything outside. During the season it’s tough to get out and explore too much. Also, you get about 10-15 yds on your drive because the air is thin."
Are you an NFL fan-who’s your favorite?
"Now it’s the Miami Dolphins. I’m excited to watch (brother Caleb) this year. He had a really good preseason. Hopefully they win and then give him a couple of field goals. I’m really happy for him. He had a great college career so it was fun to watch him at Florida and to see him now in the NFL is pretty cool. He got drafted and came to a team that already had a kicker so he had to fight for a spot so hopefully he does well this year."