Interview With For Soccer-Crazy Girls Only Author Erin Downing
1. When did you first fall in love with the game of soccer?
Erin Downing: I first started playing soccer when I was 6 or 7. I was really lucky I had the chance to play on a formal team at such a young age—there wasn’t a great youth program in my hometown before that. But luckily, some enthusiastic dads took it upon themselves to start a program just in time for little me, and the sport took off immediately! Everyone had been waiting anxiously for the chance to play on a team. (Confession: I was never a very coordinated player. Mostly, I just enjoyed hanging out with my teammates and cheering from the sidelines!)
I became a real fan of watching soccer when I was living in England during college. I was in Europe during the World Cup, and I watched so many games with my flatmates it seemed as though we lived and breathed soccer! These days, I love watching and cheering for my soccer-crazy kids—my 7-year-old twins are much better players than I ever was! And of course, I can’t wait for the women’s World Cup next summer!
2. Who would you list as some of the best role models, past or present, in women's soccer?
Erin: I could list some famous professional soccer players and ramble on about the great things they’ve done for girls and women in the sport—but I think most soccer-crazy kids already know those names and recognize them as an inspiration! So I’ll answer this way instead: I think some of the best role models can be found on teams all over the country—youth rec teams, high school teams, in neighborhood pick-up games. It’s the kids who are always positive on the field, always cheering for their teammates, and who celebrate other players’ successes. My advice to young players is: be that role model. Be the kid on your team who models great team spirit and becomes a leader. Support your team. Be kind. Be dedicated. These are important skills for soccer—and for life.
3. What are some of the characteristics of a soccer-crazy girl?
Erin: Determination and commitment are so important—for soccer and for any other sport you love. You have to want to be your best to become your best.
Also, as I said above, learning how to be a team player is essential—great communication and support for one another on the field are key. One person can’t carry a team to victory alone.
4. While you discuss in For Soccer-Crazy Girls Only what it takes to be successful on the pitch, you also touch on what is necessary off the pitch. What are some of the most important tips that players need to keep in mind in preparing themselves for upcoming practices and games?
Erin: I think the thing that is often forgotten—especially for kids who are busy with schoolwork and friends and other sports and family—is the importance of sleep. Resting your body after hard workouts is really important. With so many things pulling kids in so many different directions, it can be hard to fit in enough sleep for a growing, hardworking body. Also, healthy nutrition. There’s a section in For Soccer-Crazy Girls that talks about power foods—fueling your body with the right kinds of food and enough restorative sleep will help you get the biggest benefits out of all that other work you do on the pitch!
5. The most intimidating part of the soccer experience for young players is tryouts. How can players better cope with the stresses of making the team?
Erin: It’s never easy to hear no—and that doesn’t get easier with age. But just know that if you do your work ahead of time (work hard at practice, eat right, develop your mental toughness), and show up to a tryout with your best attitude and give it your all, you’ve done your job. Make sure you get plenty of rest the night before, eat well, and take some time to relax before the tryout. Most importantly, don’t blame yourself if you don’t make it—because you did the best you could! And if you don’t make it this year, let your anger or sadness about that “no” fuel you to practice even harder for next time.
6. What advice would you give to a young girl that is looking to try her hand at the sport of soccer for the first time?
Erin: Get out there and give it a try! The only way to learn is to play, so join a rec team in your area, or grab a few friends or a parent and kick a ball around at a park. Because who knows? You may be the next Abby Wambach—but you won’t ever know your own potential unless you get out there and master the basic skills first!
7. Since most of the books that you've written are fiction, any plans for a soccer-related fiction book or series in the future?
Erin: I’d love to write a soccer-related series sometime! But I have my hands full with a couple of other series I’m working on right now (a silly series about a fun family called The Quirks is out now, and a new chapter book series called Puppy Pirates will be in stores next fall). Of course, I sneak soccer into most of my fiction—at least one character plays soccer in most of my books. After all, it’s the world’s most popular sport!