Growing up in Bournemouth, England, Jack Dickson grew up playing soccer against skilled and veteran talent. But they certainly were not in his age group.
Before Dickson was playing on the pitch in Durham for UNH as a midfielder/forward, he was already playing men’s soccer back in England.
Not high school soccer, but men’s.
“Back in England, I played men’s soccer,” Dickson said. “So I’m playing with people who are [older], I’d say the average age is probably about 26.”
Compared to playing against 18-year-olds in American high school, to say Dickson had an advantage heading into UNH would be an understatement.
“He brings a lot of flare,” men’s soccer head coach Marc Hubbard said. “He’s a good dribbler, he’s got some speed. He definitely tries some things other people wouldn’t. He’s an exciting player to watch.”
But regardless of the age gap and level of play he experienced in England, Dickson still was faced with making the transition from English soccer to American college soccer. With different strategies and style of play, Dickson managed well his freshman year, but the alteration was felt.
“Over here, especially playing in college, we’re trying to keep the ball a lot more, pass the ball a lot more,” Dickson said.
Beyond dealing with a change in scenery and styles of play, Dickson changed position from fullback to playing upfront as a striker in his debut season as a Wildcat and took full advantage of the change, as he netted five goals in 19 games for UNH while posting 1.47 shots per game.
“It was different for me,” Dickson said on changing positions. “It was good to sort of see what it was like at another position.”
According to Hubbard, Dickson will continue to improve as he fluctuates around the playing systems and his newfound position.
“[Dickson] came in flying off of preseason,” Hubbard said. “He started the year really well. He hasn’t really played the position he’s playing before as a forward within our system. That’s taking some adjustment, some buy in. Over the course of the season, I think with any freshmen there’s some wear and tear. He’ll be much more adjusted when he comes back for preseason next year.”
In just his first season of American college soccer, Dickson has already earned two major colligate accolades. He was named America East Rookie of the Week twice this past fall and was nominated to the 2016 America East All-Rookie Team.
“That’s a good achievement for me,” Dickson said. “For my freshman year, it’s a step forward. But I think this year, I can step up again and do even better.”
What lies ahead for Dickson will be just that: improvement. As a sophomore to be, Dickson is cognizant of the needed refinements to his game in order to be a sharper, more skilled offensive weapon that his coach is aiming for him to become.
“Decision making,” Dickson said about what areas of his game needed improvement heading into next fall. “I think knowing when to dribble – because I think that’s one of my best tributes – knowing when to dribble and when to pass. And probably to get on the score sheet a bit more as well. Probably that and my finishing.”
For Hubbard, Dickson’s finishing is an area of his game he also hopes will improve.
“I think his overall finishing, striking the ball,” Hubbard said. “His ability of knowing where he is on the field and what to try where. Simplifying his game closer to our own goal, but take guys on and try things closer to the goal and try and score.”