Learn Soccer from the Pros: Courtney Jones
Our Learn from the Pros series continues with Courtney Jones of the Boston Breakers.
Courtney has had plenty of success throughout her soccer career, as not only is she making an impact on the professional level, but she was also a wildly successful player on the college level in winning two national championships while playing for North Carolina.
You can follow her on Twitter @courtneyjones84.
1. How were you first introduced to the game of soccer as a kid?
Courtney Jones: My parents made sure I was introduced to every sport when I was young; softball, basketball, volleyball, tennis, swimming, track and soccer. I started soccer at age 7, but continued to play every sport I could. As I grew up, I decided for myself what sports were my favorite. At age 13 I was playing softball and soccer. I was actually really good at both, but when it came down to it, soccer was always my first priority. I'm so glad my parents allowed me to get a feel for all sports, and let me make my own decision on which one I loved the most.
2. Your dad won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers, so I'm sure he had plenty of advice as you first got started. What early tips did he give you that have really stuck with you throughout your career?
Courtney: Dad of course had some advice! As a pro athlete father, he always had some words of wisdom for me. He didn't know too much about the game of soccer when I started playing, but the one thing he is an expert at is work ethic. He used to tell me, "no matter how the game is going, you can ALWAYS control how hard you work." He was always telling me to "hustle" from the sidelines! That stuck with me the most, especially at UNC. I was surrounded by incredible players, and there were times when I felt like I couldn't compete with their skills, but I never stopped trying.
3. You won two NCAA championships during your time as a player for the North Carolina Tar Heels. What was the experience like playing for such a traditional college soccer power?
Courtney: It still feels like a dream, honestly. I am California born and bred, and never did I think I would be going to the east coast for college. Both of my parents went to Santa Clara actually, and I wanted to stay in California. I think part of me was intimidated by UNC and their constant success. I didn't feel like I was up to par for their program.
But I knew I wanted to win, and UNC was the place to do that! Thinking back, I was pretty confident going into my freshman year. I worked morning and night, 6 days a week for the entire summer before my freshman year, so I knew I was prepared. UNC has an incredible campus, community, school, and soccer program. No one can compete with their legacy. My four years at UNC made me who I am today. I won two national championships my first two years, but I learned more than just soccer. I learned about life, and I have my coaches to thank for that.
4. What was the most difficult part of making the transition from a college player to a professional player?
Courtney: SPEED OF PLAY! There are still a number of mistakes in the college game. When you transition into the pros, you are expected to hold yourself to a higher standard. Mistakes shouldn't be made. Passes shouldn't bounce and traps shouldn't get away from you. It's intense! In college, you can get away with those things. But in the pros, you have to fully concentrate on every touch you have with the ball.
5. Youth soccer players may not yet understand the true importance of off-the-field preparation (eating habits, getting enough sleep, etc.), so just how important is that aspect of the game as you continue to develop as a player?
Courtney: It's funny because this last year was probably the first year I had to really focus on this. I used to stay up late, snack on pizza at midnight, eat ice cream whenever I wanted. And it's all changing now. I notice a difference in the way I play when I prepare the right way! I'm learning how to eat a balanced meal for the first time! It's funny and sad that it's taken me so long. But it's worth it. I take ice baths after practice, and Epsom salt baths the night before a game. I drink a full Pedialyte the day before the game and a half of one the day of the game. I have a pregame meal of grilled chicken and a few carbs. When you are young, you don't have to worry about these things too much, but there comes a time when it's absolutely necessary. And it will come quick :)
6. What would you say is the biggest thing that you've learned during your journey as a soccer player?
Courtney: I have learned patience and composure. I struggle with being patient on a daily basis. Patience is a huge part of the sport, on and off the field. Whether you are in a game and you are losing 1-0 and have to work the ball patiently, or you are on the bench waiting for your chance to shine. It all requires patience.
Composure is a big one for me too because I am crazy, feisty, and competitive and those qualities don't mix well when you are trying to control the ball at your feet.