What does it take to play soccer for the Canadian Women’s National Team? According to national team defender Rhian Wilkinson, hard work — and a multi-sport background during childhood.
In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, Wilkinson says that playing a variety of sports as a child made her a better soccer player.
She started playing soccer at age 5 with Lakeshore Soccer Club in Montreal. Since her first start with team Canada in 2003, she has played over 160 games with the Women’s National Team. She was also a member of the squad that won Bronze at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
But as a kid, soccer was just one of many sports she played.
She says that she always played soccer in the summer, and in the winter, she played either ringette or hockey. She also played basketball, rode horses, swam, and played rugby and badminton at different times.
She says that playing different sports made her a better soccer player.
According to Wilkinson, other sports helped to develop her vision, agility, speed, and strength. These qualities are commonly called “The ABCs of physical literacy”.
For example, she says that even though she “sucked” at basketball, she thinks it helped her to develop her game vision. For this reason, she doesn’t think kids should be forced to choose a single sport before age 12. (Active for Life agrees — specializing early is generally a bad idea.)
She’s also a fan of children’s free play. Wilkinson is certain that adult-free, unstructured play during her childhood contributed significantly to her success.
In her interview with the Montreal Gazette, she says:
“It’s not the hours with your team that will make you a great soccer player. It will help you … but it’s the hours that you spend on your own or with your friends in the park with a ball that make you stand out. I just had fun playing with my friends and siblings in the park. Those are the extra hours that improved me because I was never the best player on my team ever growing up.”
Wilkinson is now poised and primed to play at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015, and Canada is expected to do well. The tournament runs from Canada’s opening match on June 6 in Edmonton to the championship final on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver.
Image courtesy of Canada Soccer