Only two home regular season matches remain before the Indy Eleven play in their first ever playoff match. We chat with midfielder Don Smart about training, Jamaica, nicknames and more.
NUVO: How have you seen the team grow over the course of the three years you’ve been here?
Don Smart: It’s been growing a lot because a lot of players and coaches have been coming in and out. It’s been difficult the first two years but has improved a lot position wise and coaching wise. Day in and day out the trainings are intense, games are intense, it gives you a hard feeling knowing that everyone is fighting for a position.
NUVO: Do you think that competitiveness for starting positions is a reason why the Eleven have proven to be such a formidable team this season?
Smart: Most definitely. Everyone is pushing each other to do their best. It really brings out the best in everyone.
NUVO: With a last name like Smart, I’m sure you’ve been given some nicknames over the years. What’s your favorite?
Smart: I’ve had so many nicknames from Jamaica. I’d have to say Gaga. It’s a nickname my friends and family gave me in Jamaica. It kind of stuck with me when I came to New York.
NUVO: What was the reason behind it?
Smart: To be honest with you, I’m not sure where that one came from. There were so many. I got Gaga, Smurf, Nicki. They call me Nicki because my cousin gave me a Nicholas and I came here to America and they don’t say Nicholas, just Nicki — they want to cut everything short. It depends on where I go, I have different nicknames everywhere I go.
NUVO: How important has the Brickyard Battalion been to the team’s success this season?
Smart: It has been massive for the team. I think those fans keep the players going for 90 minutes. Even if we’re down the Brickyard Battalion help us get back into the game. They give us the energy to keep fighting.
NUVO: You’re on pace to play more minutes this season than your previous two years with the squad. What’s one key for you to stay fit throughout the year?
Smart: Continue the hard work in training. Do what the coaches say. Do what’s best of the team.
NUVO: Where’s your favorite place to eat in Indy?
Smart: A Jamaican restaurant called Reggae Grill in Carmel. Closest food to home.
NUVO: Speaking of home, what’s one thing about Jamaica that you wish people knew?
Smart: That it’s a beautiful country with nice people — the culture is great. I wish everyone could get a chance to go there and experience it once in their life. As the Jamaicans say: “it’s always irie.” [Dictionary definition of irie: nice, good, or pleasing]
NUVO: If you could have one walkout song as you enter the pitch, what would your song be?
Smart: Oh man there’s a lot of songs. There’s a song from Rich Homie Quan that goes “I be feeling like a man when I walk through.”
NUVO: With only four regular season matches to go before the team’s first playoff match, what do the Eleven need to lock down on between now and then?
Smart: Like I said earlier, just continue working hard in practice. It’s been difficult for us to get a win on the road and we want to win the championship. We have to get our mindsets right. We need to continue fighting for each other and try to stay on a winning path to get in a good position going into the playoffs — to have good momentum.
NUVO: Free vacation anywhere in the world, where are you going?
Smart: I’d go to Bora Bora [Island in the French Polynesia]. I’ve never been there. I always see pictures and videos and I’d love to go there.