Reina Callahan Brings Japanese Techniques to Manhattan

By Angelica Niedermeyer, Asst. Sports Editor

Soccer has always surrounded junior Reina Callahan’s life. 

“Our dad wanted us to play soccer when we were young because he was a soccer player,” said Callahan. “He kind of pushed that on us.”

Michael Callahan, her father, played soccer at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, while her brothers Yuji and Junta also played collegiately. Yuji played soccer at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts and Junta currently plays soccer at Valparaiso in Indiana.

“There are multiple benefits of playing the sport of soccer such as collaboration and resiliency,” said her brother Junta. “We have grown up in the American school system on a Military base, but lived in Japan. Soccer was a way for us to learn the Japanese culture/language by participating in local Japanese soccer teams. By participating in these teams, it allowed Reina to grow in a multicultural background where she was able to live the best of both worlds of Japanese and American culture. Overall, it is very exciting to see that Reina has been able to compete at the college level and to see her grow as a player and a person.”

Before moving to the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx to attend Manhattan College, Callahan visited twice before staying. 

“To be honest, I really liked New York City and I kind of just looked up online like schools in New York City,” said Callahan. “I saw that Manhattan was one of the first schools and there were also other options too, but I like the small community of the college. Also, when I was getting recruited here I talked to Brendan and I thought he was a really nice, good coach.”

Callahan, who is double-majoring in childhood/special education, had been to the East Coast area before, but fully making the move was a big change for her.

“I’ve been to the states before because my dad is American and my mom is Japanese. So, my dad has family in Connecticut and we come every summer. I would go to Connecticut and the Tri-state area. I was kind of familiar, but once I got here it was a huge culture shock.”

On the tropical island of Okinawa, Japan, soccer is more about the art of passing than one player running and kicking a goal.

“Soccer is way different here in the states compared to how I played soccer in Japan,” said Callahan. “So I feel like that was like a huge adjustment, especially here it is a lot more physical and more about athleticism. In Japan, you use your technical skills.”

Abe Summers, Callahan’s high school soccer coach explains how Callahan used the differences in soccer to her advantage. 

“A lot of the Japanese teams are more possession based, they’ll pass the ball a lot more and they work about the field,” said Summers. “Whereas in America, I feel it is more like hitting a long pass and having your fast runner run on to it. So, she [Callahan] was kind of trained more in that kind of soccer where you have really good passes and everything. That helped her have a strong foundation.”

Callahan played her prep soccer at Kadena High School, under the direction of Summers and Tony Washington, where she was voted the 2019-20 Kadena Female Athlete of the Year.

“Just kind of looking at all of our athletes, I think a lot of coaches and a lot of people recognized her as someone who accomplished a lot and getting that scholarship to [Manhattan College] was probably a big part of that,” said Summers. “Recognizing what her level of play was, that she was not only getting recognized by us, but also from a school that was on the outside.”

Callahan signed to Manhattan College her sophomore year, while her freshman and sophomore year she didn’t play for the high school. She was playing club soccer for Ryukyu Deigos in the Kyushu League, under the tutelage of Rie Yamaki and Takashi Onaga, according to GoJapsers. On the local adult Japanese team, the competition was a lot better, explains Summers.

“Her junior year she played with us,” said Summers. “Her senior year was the first year of Covid-19 and so it was cut short, having like one or two games. But her junior year, we went all the way to the championship game. We could have won the championship game, but we lost in penalties. She was a big part of that team.”

The international recruitment process for players who live overseas is really difficult, says Summers.

“Teams don’t get to see them and if they see video on them, they don’t really know who they are playing against the level of competition. Reina and her parents were very proactive. I think she was part of a team that went out and did a trip through the United States and visited a bunch of different schools and played games. So, the coaches over there could actually see them.”

Callahan, midfield/defense, thinks she brought the Manhattan team a new point of view.

“I was recruited as a midfielder which is a lot more technical than right defender. I think I brought a different perspective,” said Callahan.

Okinawa, Japan is a 13 hour time difference and an 18 hour plane ride away. So, the distance is difficult for Callahan.

“I would say it is kind of hard to not have your immediate family here,” said Callahan. “My roommates can go back to their parents every weekend or wherever they want. Especially with Covid-19, I can’t go back every other week.”

Most of the women on the soccer team are from the tri-state and North American area and even though it is not a problem for Callahan, she wishes there were more players in her position.

“I think we are a pretty good team overall,” said Callahan. “But, it would be nice if there were more internationals, so we are going through the same things with Covid-19 like where we are going to stay and especially over the holidays.”

The women’s soccer team went into MAAC play on Saturday Sept. 24 against Niagara, but lost 3-0, according to GoJaspers. The Jaspers continue their season with two wins, three losses and one tie against Stony Brook. They are currently ranked tenth out of eleventh on the MAAC standings.