November 22, 2006 - by
From Wayne, PA To France, Toby Ranck’s Journey Has Been A Long One

Nov. 22, 2006

Elliott Finebloom

FSU Sports Information


It’s odd to hear someone from Philadelphia call Tallahassee a `big town’ but that is exactly what Florida State senior soccer player Toby Ranck thinks. The main reason for that somewhat odd thought is that her Philadelphia suburb of Wayne is a small town when compared to the state capitol of Florida. Although Wayne is just 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, it couldn’t be any less the big city that Philly is. With a population of just 1,500 and only 47,000 people in the entire rural county the 150,000 people in the city of Tallahassee was a bigger change than Toby ever expected.

“I was caught by surprise how different life was at FSU when I started school,” remembers Toby. “It is different coming for a weekend and visiting. I came on my recruiting trip and remember thinking it is a great school, a great campus and a great team. I was really excited to come. Then I got here and it was overwhelming. There are so many people and so much going on. It is a good thing but it took me by surprise.”

It didn’t just take Toby by surprise, it unsettled her. After graduating from a high school whose senior class numbered just 250, Toby was now in a single class nearly that size. Like many freshman she was far from home, felling out of place and generally unsure of how to handle the transition.

“My team and everyone in the athletic department really helped me early on. It is a family,” said Toby. “From the second you come to FSU you are part of this family. They just welcomed me in. I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone or do anything special. They just are special people who welcome you with open arms. They took care of me from every aspect. I knew there was someone there for me no matter what I needed help with. That makes this school so special.

“I can’t even imagine how hard it would have been had I not had the athletic department’s support when I first came to school. I know that my freshman year I was kind of a mess. In high school it was so much easier. In college you are far away from home and need to be on top of so many different things. It was very difficult. There were so many situations someone from the team came to my rescue. Some of the time I wouldn’t even have to say anything and they knew I needed a helping hand. From the athletic department, to my teammates, to the coaching staff, there was a great support system in place.”

Toby’s adjustment went well beyond the size of her classes and the amount of people on campus, which was roughly 24 times the size of her hometown. She was now in a diverse environment that she wasn’t accustomed to as well.

“Coming from a small suburb, Tallahassee and Florida State was a huge change,” said Toby. “I came from a high school that wasn’t nearly as diverse. Coming to such a big school and diverse place opened my eyes to a lot of things in a good way. It has changed me for the better because I have learned so much about life and different people.”

Toby didn’t just have her eyes opened by the diversity she experienced at Florida State, she embraced it. The girl from rural Pennsylvania dove head first into the French language. Although she had been taking French her whole life, it wasn’t until she got to FSU that she realized how much she wanted it to be a part of her life and not just foreign language requirement. What really made her realize how much she wanted to immerse herself in the French language and culture was the International teammates she had been playing with everyday.

“I have been taking French since I was little. I started taking it in college and realized it was pretty cool,” said Toby. “I was always impressed with the international players who came to our team and could speak English. It made me want to try and learn a new language myself. Not just the language either but learn about other cultures. I saw how much our international players were growing from coming to America and I wanted to experience that kind of growth too. That really led me to pursue French even further, which took me to France this past summer.”

Yup, the girl who was intimidated by the size of Tallahassee found herself in a foreign land for six weeks this past summer. Toby, and teammate Colette Swensen, went to France as part of Florida State‘s Study Abroad program. If she thought she had her eyes opened by the size and diversity of Tallahassee, Toby had another thing coming.

“It was like being on a different planet,” said Toby. “You always hear about how different Europe is from America. Personally, I always assumed other places were similar to America. I know now that was ignorant on my part. After being there for six weeks, I know how different it is.”

Not only did Toby experience how different France is from America she got to experience what it is like to be a stranger in someone else’s country. Something her teammates from Germany, Japan, Spain, Holland and Australia go through everyday.

“I learned how lonely you can get in a country where you don’t speak the language. Not being able to communicate and not feeling like you understand what is going on around you is hard. It made me a stronger person. It also gave me so much respect for people who speak more than one language and can absorb themselves in other cultures. Being in France made me open my view of American culture and want to experience more.”

Even though she had spent years in French classes she learned there is a big difference from studying a language out of a text book and being able to function in that society. Looking back on her struggles with the language in its practical implications makes her chuckle now, but it wasn’t so funny in France.

“Trying to communicate was tough. I went there thinking I knew so much but I realized how little I knew,” she recalls. “It was shocking. There were things that happened that seem hilarious to me now but at the time were terrible. Once I got adjusted it was an amazing experience. It was unbelievable to see all these places that I have only read about.”

While Toby was spending her six weeks immersed in French culture, she even learned she had trouble relating to something she had been doing even longer than taking French lessons and that was soccer. Toby had the ultimate thrill of being in France during this summer’s World Cup. You would think a lifelong soccer player would at least be able to relate to the French about the sport she loved but even soccer wasn’t the common ground she expected.

“Being in Europe during the World Cup was an experience in itself. Seeing the passion for soccer in France and throughout Europe made me love the game so much more. You don’t realize how the game has the capacity to bring different people together until you experience through the eyes of a country that has a passion for the sport. Seeing stadiums full just to watch their teams play on TV was an eye-opener. It gave me so much respect and love for the game of soccer. It also energized me to come back and play here.”

That brings Toby’s story back to where it all began, with soccer. It was the reason she was in Tallahassee in the first place and in a round-about way the reason she was in France. The four-year letterwinner is still making adjustments athletically was well. While she has adjusted to the college experience she is still adjusting to life on the pitch and with a new coach.

Ranck and eight of her current teammates had to adjust to a coaching change in the middle of their playing careers. After her sophomore season, Patrick Baker left Florida State to take over the program at Georgia. It is one of the toughest things any collegiate athlete can go through.

“When we found out coach Baker was leaving it sent our soccer lives into disarray. I came here because coach Baker recruited me and I knew he wanted me to be a part of this program. Then you realize he is gone and there is a new person coming in.”

After she had finally adjusted to college less than two years into her playing career she had to adjust to a new coach. As with all her teammates, Toby was filled with doubt on how her athletic future would turn out.

“I thought we might get a coach that didn’t care as much about us as people. Maybe he wouldn’t be as good. Maybe the team wouldn’t continue to be successful. Would we still get great recruits? So many things go through your head.”

All those things that were going through Toby’s head ended when she found out Mark Krikorian was taking over the program. The former head coach of the WUSA’s Philadelphia Charge was a familiar name since he had coached in Toby’s backyard.

“When I found out Mark was coming I knew about him because he coached the Philadelphia Charge in the WUSA near my hometown. I heard so many good things about him so I was very excited. I knew he was going to be an elite level coach.”

With an elite level coach came demands for Toby to raise her game up a level. Everything she had experienced, learned and adjusted to in her first few years at Florida State made the next transition for her that much easier,

“In the beginning it was tough because the way I was playing the past 10 years was going to have to change,” she remembers. “Mark wanted me to play a different way. It has turned out to be a great thing. Although I thought it would be negative at first, it has helped me develop into a player that I never thought I could become.

“Mark has helped me so much as a player. He has shown me how much room there still is for me to improve. He has pushed me to improve off the field as well. I am more organized because of him. He is so structured and he believes in his players being elite on and off the field. That has been a great thing. I realize I have so much more to go but that is exciting.”

Toby’s reaction to the challenges her new head coach put in front of her sum up just how much she has grown at Florida State. Accepting that she can learn things from new people, embrace those differences and accept them are the lessons that she will take with her long after her collegiate career comes to an end in a few months.

“The reason I came to FSU was for soccer. When I leave I will have so much more than that. Soccer is important in my life. I have such a love for the game. I am lucky to be a part of such an amazing program. It has helped me grow so much as a player but being at Florida State has helped me grow as a person.

“This experience at FSU has made me stronger and more independent. The relationships and the competitive environment of our soccer program have taught me things that will carry into the workplace and into every phase of my life. I will leave here having priorities and discipline. I interact better with people. I feel lucky.”

That feeling is something Toby wants to share with others. While she still isn’t sure what specific area she wants to pursue once school has ended don’t mistake that with not knowing what she wants to do with her life. She has never been surer of anything.

“When I went to France I opened a door and now I want to see what is on the other side. I want to experience new cultures and interact with different people. I want to take all the things I have been blessed with and help other people as well. I want to get out and help others. We are so lucky at FSU. We have so many things that other people never have access to. It is important to me now to share that.”

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