When you walk into Sahlen’s Stadium you are greeted by a massive banner with the words “Youth to Pro” and photos of former North Carolina FC players: Nazmi Albadawi, DJ Taylor, Conor Donovan, and Manny Perez. It is the concept seen throughout all of NCFC from the youth programs to the pro level and everywhere in between, the Triangle area of North Carolina continues to boast the purest examples of this concept. While all 4 players are no longer with the club, the current squad boast 3 professional players that worked up the ranks of the NCFC youth program. I recently spoke with one of those players: Cole Frame, on what it means to be a role model for NCFC youth players, signing his first professional contract with the club he grew up with, and reminiscing about his first professional goal. And while I was at it, I wanted to know what he thought about the “Cole Frame Chant”…
Fun facts about Cole Frame
Your first name is Robert. Have you ever gone by that name?
I’ve always gone by Cole because my Dad is Robert. I’m not a junior, but my Dad was Robert or Bob and my mom— she always called me Cole or Coleman from a young age. And funny because there’s a Robert on both sides. Both of my parents— their Dads were named Robert as well so it was passed down to me.
Speaking of your Dad, his company is involved with First Watch (who is also a NCFC sponsor). Silly question: what’s your favorite meal at First Watch?
That’s a tough question. Not a silly question. Because there’s so much good food and it depends on what I’m feeling like. If I’m trying to stay healthy and stay lean, I like the Sweet Honey Pecan Salad. It’s really good. But you know, if I’m just going there and I’m not worrying about what I’m eating, the French toast is the way to go.
Who were the players or teams you looked up to as a kid?
That’s a tough question. Because there’s a lot. My favorite team since I’ve been 12 has been Real Madrid. I watched them play and then I was like, “oh, I’m a fan”. And then when I was 14, we took one of those trips to Spain and I got to see a game. And then I was like, all right, well this is the best stadium, the best atmosphere I’ve ever been in. I just love this team. I really liked it when Ronaldo was there. But even after he left, I’m still a Madrid fan at heart. Maybe before I would’ve said I was a little bit of a Ronaldo fan, but I’m definitely just a Madrid fan now.
On signing with NCFC
“I feel super blessed and super special that NCFC believed in me enough to take that step with me.”
You started at NCFC Youth when you were seven years old. How does it feel to sign your first pro contract with the team you grew up playing for?
It’s definitely special. It’s definitely memorable. I’m really glad they gave me the opportunity as well because there’s not a lot to go around and so I feel super blessed and super special that they believed in me enough to take that step with me. I felt like I’ve always been at this club. I’ve been at this club for a long time. I don’t know if there are many people even in and around the club that have been as with it as long as I have. So it’s more meaningful than if I would’ve signed somewhere else.
How was it playing for Coach Bradford on the Academy level and now playing for him at the pro level?
Unfortunately I never had Bradford. He was always the Academy Director and the year that I would have had him as the U19s coach he took the coaching job with the first team. So the first time I had him as a coach was with the first team.
What’s it been like signing with 2 other products of the NCFC Youth program?
It’s really great. I’m glad that Nick (Holliday) and Britton (Fischer) both decided to sign because it’s been nice to have two other people go through this with me, even though we’re all different ages. We’re all basically on the same path, the same trajectory, and with the same goals. It’s nice to have somebody that you can talk to because you know, we all came up from the club. We’re not seasoned pros like some of the other guys. So it’s nice to always have somebody that you can just talk to about what’s going on, how you’re feeling, all that stuff. Yeah. And especially because they’re both great players as well.
One of your brothers, Tyden, played for the North Carolina FC U23 team this summer. How has your experience helped in his development?
Tyden is a really good player. He’s always been talented. I definitely think it’s helped him being able to see me and being around me and seeing what I do. And then of course, I have a nice training partner whenever we want to do something. He’s always there and he definitely has a bright career as well.
How would that feel if both of you were walking onto the pitch at Sahlen’s Stadium together?
It would be really cool! (As long as we got along, it would be great.) <laugh> We’re still brothers, you know? He’s super competitive and I’m super competitive. There’s always a little bit of a battle somewhere. That competitiveness definitely makes us both better. It’s been really nice to see. He’s really blossomed into a great player.
On his first professional goal
On June 20th, 2021, Cole scored his first professional goal against the Chattanooga Red Wolves. Here is a video of that goal:
Tell me how that felt.
I mean it feels kind of surreal. It’s hard to even put it into words because you know, it’s something that you dream about as a kid: the goal is to score a professional goal. You’re always gonna remember the first one. You might not remember all of ’em, but the first one I feel like I will always remember that. I’ll also always remember my Dad being there. He made the trip to come see me play because that was like the second or third game that I had started. So I was still breaking into the team and it still feels unreal.
Let’s go a little deeper on that actual play if you remember. Luis (Arriaga) sent you a beautiful ball.
He gave me a perfect pass over the top, yeah.
Is that a play you guys practice?
So I felt last year, from the way I was playing as a winger, I was always looking to get in behind. I feel like our midfielders kind of knew that like, “Hey, if we’re ever in a bad spot, just hit it over towards Cole and put it over and behind and let him go run after it” because I like to chase the ball. I like to run even if I’m not gonna get it. So it’s definitely not something that we had like a set design, but I can understand why it happened because there were instances in training where that’s happened.
“…that was the first time I think I’d even taken a shot in one of those games!”
You received the ball well and it was you versus the keeper. Did you already pick out where you were going with it or were you looking at what was open?
I mean, honestly? I couldn’t even tell you. It just happened so fast, you know? I was just worried about putting it in the frame of the goal because that was the first time I think I’d even taken a shot in one of those games. So that one I didn’t think as much. I can tell you with the next goal against Toronto, there was definitely more thinking about where I was dribbling, where the goalkeeper was, and that one was just like, just put it in the frame. Put it in the goal.
So you score the goal and slide on the turf in celebration. Fans want to know: does that hurt?
On the turf? It does. When it’s on grass, not really, but that turf one in Chattanooga? I definitely had some marks on my leg after the game. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t care and I didn’t even think about it.
On being a role model
“There are so many paths that you can take to get to play at the highest level. I just like being able to be an example of one of those paths.“
There are a ton of NCFC youth kids that look up to you. How does that feel to be a model for some of these kids who dream of signing pro contracts?
I mean, I like it a lot and it’s crazy because I’ve had a bunch of the younger kids reach out to me and ask me about soccer and things that I can try to give like advice on even though I’m barely breaking into MY career and I hope my career goes on for a long time. I continue to gain knowledge and experience, but I like being able to help kids. I like being able to be there as somebody that they can say, “that’s what I want to do. That’s the path I want to take.” There are so many paths that you can take to get to play at the highest level. I just like being able to be an example of one of those paths.
How does it feel when people ask for your autograph?
I like it. Honestly, though, I like giving advice better than giving autographs. I like talking to people after the game or when somebody will reach out on Instagram and I’ll be able to try to help them improve. I always want to be in and around the game. So it’s nice now to even be able to help these younger kids when they’re asking, “Hey, what should I be working on?” or “If you could go back, what’s the most important thing you would do at my age?” And I can always answer with, “well I would do this, this and this. And you know, even if I could go back now I’d do this more because I feel like I could have used more of this growing up.”
I love that I was able to grab that shot of you signing that autograph because to me it represents the “Path to the Pros” philosophy so well.
Great picture. Trust me: that picture? I think it’s probably on my mom’s phone, my dad’s phone, on my phone. I mean it’s everywhere. I really like that. I think every picture I’ve posted, you’ve taken, so it’s nice. It’s been great. Thank you.
On Game Day
What does a Saturday typically look like when you are playing away?
We have our team breakfast and then we’ll have a team walk at like 11, 11:30 and then another meal, and another meeting. For me personally, I like to do a little bit more physical activation, a bit more walking and stretching on my own. Sometimes I want to go and grab a nice snack or meal that actually fuels my body to be the best. Sometimes it’s a little bit difficult with the longer bus rides because it takes a toll on your body more than you would expect.
I really make sure that when I get there, I’m stretching out my legs, foam rolling and you’re really just getting everything flowing in my body again. Finally I need to get a good night’s sleep, which I know isn’t the day of the game, but that is a huge factor as well. I need at least eight and a half to nine hours for me to be able to perform.
Do you have a go-to seat mate on the bus or go-to roommate in the hotel?
I’ve roomed basically every trip with Showkat (Tahir) this year which has been nice. It’s been really cool to get to know him. And last year I was with Naz (NCFC Club Legend, Nazmi Albadawi) for a while which was great because you see that side of like how he’s been a season pro and he gave a lot of experience to me. And then the second half year I was with AZ (former NCFC player, Aziel Jackson) for a while, which was nice because it was somebody my age, it was fun to be around. On the bus it doesn’t even matter just someone where I can just kind of sit and either play cards or sleep. Jordan (Skelton) taught us the card game, 22.
I’ve covered some of those away games and you guys get off the bus and you’re all plugged in and you’re walking onto the turf. What’s on your playlist?
You know it’s usually just the same mix. I have like 250 songs in a playlist and it’s a little bit of rap, little bit of hip hop, little bit of pop. And then I just hit shuffle and it’s just whatever’s playing. It’s all pretty feel good music. I like to clear my head before the game. Even if you’ve seen the field, like, even if we’re playing at WakeMed Soccer Park and I’ve been on that field 40 times, I’m still gonna walk around the field beforehand, and talk with some of my teammates out there to loosen up and to make sure that I’m not tight before the game.
Let’s talk arrivals. Some players are super comfortable like Oalex and Raheem and some seem uncomfortable. On a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable are you?
It’s not that I’m not comfortable with it. It’s just, I don’t buy any clothing or shoes. I’m pulling things out of my closet that I’ve had in there for like six years. So I give it like a four. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but you know, I’ve never really been one to spend a couple hundred dollars on a pair of shoes or like a nice shirt, you know? Robbie (Former NCFC player, Robbie Kristo) last year would be showing up and his outfit would be worth like a thousand dollars and I’m over here and mine was like 15 bucks from Target.
Sometimes during pregame, you guys are playing a game and it ends up with someone’s ear getting flicked. Explain to me that game.
We play “two touch”. So basically, you have two touches to keep the ball up: you have one touch to control, and one touch to pass. The ball’s gotta stay in the air and can’t hit the ground. And if you mess up three times, then you know, you get your ear flicked or you get slapped on the back or something. And so usually, when you’re not in the starting group and you’re out warming up, then you just kind of play that. It’s a nice, easy way to have a little bit of fun, have a little bit of competitiveness, but still be around the ball. People will play it before training, after training. I mean, that’s kind of just like a game that you can play anywhere, anytime.
The supporters group has a Cole Frame chant. Can you hear it when you are on the field?
I can sometimes. Yeah. I like it a lot.
He’s Every F*ckin Where!
It’s modeled after the Roy Kent Chant from the show, Ted Lasso. Are you a Ted Lasso fan?
Especially last year, with the way we were playing last year and I think we’ll see it more this second half of this year that I really was running a lot. It was either me or Luis every game. One of us was running the most. So I do think it’s a fitting chant and I love Ted Lasso, it’s a great show. Yeah. Great.
On this season
Tell me about your personal goals for this season. Last season you scored a few goals, got some minutes, got some starts. What about this year?
Yeah, it’s been a little different, especially with the change in formation because I was playing as a winger last year and then we’ve kind of gone away from that. So you know, it’s been rough learning new positions and just kind of filling in. But I really feel these last couple weeks I’ve started to really figure it out.
I’m hoping for the second half of the season, I’m gonna be really impactful. I would like to at least at least score a couple goals again this year. My goal of course is I want the team to do well, but also I want to perform. I want to keep doing everything I can on and off the field to put myself in a position to make another move and play well enough so that’s always a possibility.
More Cole Frame
I hope you enjoyed learning more about North Carolina FC player, Cole Frame. Here are a few more links related to Cole!