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11 Questions: Tyler Polak

By Greenville Triumph, 05/29/20, 4:30PM EDT


Welcome back to 11 Questions presented by Piedmont Natural Gas -- a weekly questionnaire series designed for you to get to know the people that make up Greenville Triumph Soccer Club. Each week, our own Marion Cole will ask someone from the organization the same ten questions, but the eleventh question will be from the previous interviewee. With players, coaches, and front office staff involved, we hope to bring you a fun look inside our club!

This week, I'm joined by the team's 2019 co-captain, Tyler Polak. Known by his teammates as "Typo," Tyler was an All-league first team defender and a mainstay for the Triumph back line (only missing one game) last year. 

1. If you had a podcast, what would it be about and why?

I actually don’t listen to a lot of podcasts. Sorry podders? Casters? However they identify. But if I were to do one, it would have to be about video games. Yeah, very cool. You know, as much as I was playing soccer in the backyard growing up, I was also spending a lot of time playing N64 with my brothers. So I guess, as the years went on, I just kept upgrading to the newer systems and games. Right now, you can catch me playing Fortnite, Call of Duty, Fifa, and occasionally some unorthodox indie games. Back in...maybe 2015...I was actually able to go to Game Informer, this video game magazine, in Minneapolis and play some Fifa with a teammate and somewhat critique the game. I think Fifa actually took one of my critiques from that day and added it to the later games they published. I’m not going to say what feature, you’ll just have to listen to my podcast. 

2. How do you decompress after a long week of work or training?

Decompressing after a long week of training? Definitely a nice glass of whiskey. And depending if the "Mrs." is exhausted from work or not, I would hangout with her and play cards. Maybe even some Mancala or SORRY! Crazy shenanigans happening over at the CatFe. Yeah, we have cats. But if games aren't on the menu, I would probably just get on the sticks and play some Fortnite with the guys. And if gaff asks, I play with my feet elevated for recovery. Not like ole Kevin Politz who plays standing up the whole time besides in between games. He's crazy. But honestly nothing too rambunctious. It’s good at times to get away from the game and get your mind off of it. Come back the next week with a clear head. 

3. What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had and why?

Haha the most memorable meal I’ve ever had was actually fairly recent. The date was February 13th, 2019. The day before our first Valentines day in Greenville, and I hadn’t planned anything. Well besides a gift. So, I didn’t make a reservation, and we didn’t have a place to eat. Alright, so fast forward to the next day, and I broke the news to my wife that I hadn’t booked a place. To my surprise, she wasn’t surprised. She got online, she got on the phone and she's trying to save the day. This is all very romantic, I know. Well, she finally found a place called Blockhouse that said they weren’t too busy and did walk-ins. Now both of us being from Nebraska and never visiting South Carolina before, we had never seen the true decor of the south, if you will. It was basically floor to ceiling wood panels with old war pictures everywhere. Not really what I had in mind on Valentines Day, so it made for a very memorable experience, but all in all it was fun and the food was very good. 

4. What was the most nervous you’ve ever been?

The most nervous I’ve ever been? That's tough. Need to go deep into the memory bank for that one. I guess I would say, in my personal life, it would have to be at my brother’s wedding. I was his best man and it's customary to give a speech. If you know me, like know me at all, you know that I am not the most comfortable person when it comes to public speaking. I never had to take any classes for it during any of my schooling, so I'm not completely equipped to get on a stage and awe the crowd or anything. So leading up to the speech, I wasn’t very nervous because I had thought of all the things I was going to say and was happy with it. But about five minutes before I was supposed to get up there, I just start sweating bullets. Forgot everything I was going to say. Honestly, I don’t remember much of the speech because I was so freaked out, but apparently it wasn’t terrible! As far as my soccer career goes, the most nervous I had ever been was when I was being subbed in for my first professional appearance with the Revolution. But once I got that first touch and pass, the nerves went away and I was just consumed by the game.

5. If you’re up at 2AM on a Saturday night, what are you eating?

Oh wow. It's Saturday night at 2AM, and what am I eating? That all comes down to what’s in the pantry, fridge or freezer. Definitely not going for a gourmet meal at that time, so I would say I have three options. Some white shell noodles, which has been engraved into me from childhood. Next choice would be nachos just because they're so easy to make and don't take a lot of ingredients, although I fancy mine up by adding pepper, red pepper flakes and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Last choice would be a frozen pizza. Once again, super easy to make. I’m not too picky on the toppings but I will tell you: frozen pizzas nowadays are crazy expensive so I'm always just going with the cheapest brand. 

6. What’s something you learned recently that blew your mind?

Wow, wow, wow...something recently that has blown my mind. I think I just saw it this past Memorial Day weekend on Twitter. Alright, let me see if I can explain this. Basically, previously in between or after a workout, my coach or strength coach would tell me not to lean over and put my hands on my knees to catch my breath. Rather, they would tell me to put my arms above my head to better recover. This has been told to almost every single athlete I know. Big time coverage for this "idea." Well apparently, they were all wrong and the best way to achieve recovery is to lean over at the hips with your arms on your knees just like most people do instinctually. So that was absolutely crazy to learn, and I will be contacting all previous mentors about it. And it was on Twitter. So you know it's true.

7. Triumph SC announces they’re bringing a celebrity to the next match and wondering if you have enough time to say, “Hello.” Who’s the celebrity you’re most excited to have at a match?

I’m not sure a celebrity would want me to come and say “hello” if our club hosted them, and if they did, I’m sure they would want me to leave as soon as possible! But as much as I love Will Ferrell and him being a soccer enthusiast, I think I would have to go with Steve Carell. I have been such a big fan of the American version of “The Office”, as I’m sure a lot of people are. Even though Mr. Ferrell was briefly in the show, Michael Scott is my favorite character, followed by Creed. My wife hates watching it with me because I will say the episode line for line, but I honestly can’t help myself. I was actually super pumped that Forward Madison was able to swing Stanley at our match against them last year, and maybe meeting him, but I think he felt like it would have been awkward to celebrate our win with us afterwards. Whatever, I get it. 

8. What’s the most memorable sports moment you’ve had as a fan?

Boca Juniors vs River Plate. I was pretty fortunate in my teen years to be able to travel to a lot of different countries and see a lot of different teams play. But that game was so special. Well, it was actually kind of scary because that rivalry is live or die. The fans there are so passionate and want so badly for their team to win and have those bragging rights. Oh and the flares, can’t forget the flares. That adds another level of excitement, not only to a player but also for other fans. Totally completes the atmosphere.

9. What sporting event have you always wanted to go to and why?

As exciting as the last couple El Traficos have been, I would have to go with El Clasico. I’ve obviously only been able to watch these games via TV or live stream, but just seeing the atmosphere of the fans and the intensity of the players... just can’t imagine actually being there. Physically being at a sporting event, no matter the genre, gives you a certain perspective about the skill the players have. Watching a game on TV, I think, gives you a false persona because most camera views pan to the whole field and make things look easier. I've seen Messi play live for Argentina but him in a Barcelona jersey would be a dream come true. Besides marrying my wife. 

10. If you’re part of a PK lineup, what number are you taking your penalty kick?

Ahh. If my team was in a PK shootout and I got to choose which kick I took. Great question. I'm putting myself at number five. There’s always pressure in a PK situation, whether you take the first, middle, or last shot but I wouldn’t mind being the closer. Taking the responsibility of winning or losing the game. Back at Creighton durin my sophomore year, we went to a penalty shootout in the semi-finals. We had practiced our order all year, and I was placed for number 3. Unfortunately we mixed things around and I wasn’t able to take one. Interestingly enough, I have yet to take a professional PK in my career.

11. Your new teammate, Noah Pilato, wanted me to ask you, “What kind of shampoo and conditioner he uses? I'm messing. But I'd like you to ask Tyler what advice he has for younger players trying to have long careers?"

Ha oh man, we got a real Jerry Seinfeld over here. You know that’s been pretty tough for me ever since I, for no reason at all decided to shave my head. Obviously, I use face wash on my face but I’ve found it difficult on where to stop using that and when to start using shampoo. Like where does my face end now that I'm bald? But on a more serious note, the best advice I can give to younger players trying to have a long career? Gosh that’s tough. You know, there are a lot of talented players out there, and you have to be extremely talented to make it as a professional in any league, anywhere. So, I think having the right dedication and drive to improve is massive. To never be satisfied because deep down you know you can be better. And everyday, you make yourself a new challenge. You not only push yourself, but you push your teammates to the next level. The mental side in soccer is such a big part, but sometimes the game calls for you to just run. Sprint that extra 10 yards to make a tackle, or get in behind their back line even when you're gassed. You have to put in the physical work as well, and I’ve seen a lot of talented players fizzle out because they were just lazy. No other way to put it. It's easy to convince yourself, too, that the coaches don’t notice or the fans don’t notice. They do notice. Everyone notices.

Next week, I’m speaking with VP of Marketing and Corporate Sponsorship, Megan Kolak. What would you like me to ask Megan?

What has been the most rewarding element or experience for you looking back at our inaugural season? Also, could you ask her if there is any chance to get Rogaine as a sponsor? I haven’t completely given up hope yet! 

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