Photograph by Gordon Schmidt, illustration by Katie McBride

My metal fan origins

I was 8 years old when Kiss was in my hometown, and I was so upset with my dad that he wouldn’t let me go.

Now when I think about it — my son’s 8 right now, and if he wanted to go, I’d say, “No. You’re not going.” But my dad went and had a blast. He got Gene Simmons’ and Paul Stanley’s autographs in a bar in the late hours. Metal music has been popular in Finland as long as it’s been around. It’s definitely a cultural thing.

My playing career

I always signed with a team in my hometown, Oulu. It was awesome. We were completely homegrown. I ended up playing five years after college, but one of the things I recognized is that I’ve always really been a student-athlete. I still am. A student of the game, yes, but a student of many other things. I don’t need to be just a soccer player, so I went to graduate school and eventually got my doctorate in cultural studies.

My research

As a fan of the music but also as an academic, I think that there’s a need for more information about metal’s complexity and its different hues and colors.

When you write something, it means something to you, but when I read it, it may mean different things for me. That duality is fascinating to me and also the reason why some music genres, like punk and metal and hip-hop, are so often misunderstood.

In our book, I’m not trying to say this is what metal is, just this is what it’s also about, and maybe you haven’t thought about that.

My metal listening habits

It’s the mood, the emotional connection, and the drive that I get from the music.

The lyrics don’t usually mean anything to me. Some of them you can’t even decipher when you listen, and some of them would bother you if you did read them. Too much weight is associated with the lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics are provocative just to be provocative.

Mika Elovaara

My brush with Dennis Rodman

He came to Finland to play a one-off game in the Finnish League. I knew I had to talk to him for my dissertation [on athletes as hero figures], so I got a press pass.

He took only three questions at the press conference, and I was really aggressive to get the third one. I said, “You’re really adamant in your autobiography that you’re tired of this role model [nonsense]. What do you think if people idolize you exactly because of that statement?”

My coaching philosophy

Absolutely we want to win. Everybody who knows Peter [Albright, head coach] and me knows how much we want to win, but at the end of the day, we, as a program, care way more about the person than the performer.

I constantly encourage players to pursue what their heart is telling them because society doesn’t always help with that. Society puts pressure on you about what you should do. I think it’s important to appropriately encourage them to think for themselves.

My players

As a coach, my main job is to make myself unnecessary. Soccer is so fluid and spontaneous, such a players’ game. We don’t have timeouts; we only have one halftime. When it matters the most, the player needs to be independent. They are to trust that, “I can give it a go, I can be bold, and I can dare to try this.”