We pro­file un­der-20 FIFA soc­cer star Re­becca Quinn and come up with a few non-tra­di­tional sports op­tions

The Kids Post - - Contents - by Sa­man­tha Peksa

With the World Cup in full gear this sum­mer, boys and girls ev­ery­where spent their time imag­in­ing them­selves punch­ing the air, in the mid­dle of a scream­ing sta­dium: the next future Lionel Messi of the world. Or, for those who were root­ing for Ger­many (and are not from Brazil — sorry!), the future Mario Götze. But for Toronto’s Re­becca Quinn, this fan­tasy is rather close to re­al­ity.

The FIFA Un­der 20 Women’s World Cup kicked off Aug. 5 (Ghana ver­sus Canada) in Toronto this year. We touched based with 19-year-old Cana­dian de­fender Re­becca Quinn on how she jug­gles ath­letic and aca­demic pres­sures, con­tin­u­ing to grow as both ath­lete and scholar. Ap­proach­ing her sec­ond year at Duke Univer­sity, where she plays

You want ev­ery­one on the same page, so there’s a tri­an­gle of sup­port to rely on.”

mid­fielder, Quinn knows the amount of sweat and drive that goes into es­tab­lish­ing an ath­letic ca­reer at a young age, and al­though she may make it look ef­fort­less, it has been no mean feat.

Quinn started play­ing soc­cer in North Toronto when she was seven. But her par­ents were set on en­sur­ing she tried her hand at as many things as pos­si­ble.

“They put me in a lot of dif­fer­ent sports. I was play­ing hockey, bas­ket­ball, swim­ming, ski rac­ing — I was in­volved in ev­ery­thing,” says Quinn fondly. “But I always knew soc­cer was the one for me, and I think my par­ents knew that, too.”

In high school, Quinn at­tended Haver­gal Col­lege and worked hard to bal­ance her school work and ex­tracur­ric­u­lars.

“Haver­gal was re­ally ac­com­mo­dat­ing. Mrs. Pinsler, my old guid­ance coun­sel­lor, was es­pe­cially help­ful with all of it. I missed the first month of school when I went to the World Cup, and she helped me any way she could,” says Quinn. “We com­mu­ni­cated via email. She would help me fin­ish my as­sign­ments and even pushed back dates on oc­ca­sion. But they never pun­ished me aca­dem­i­cally. I thank Haver­gal for that all the time.”

Marla Pinsler was there root­ing for Quinn in the sea­son opener (Canada suf­fered a 1-0 loss to Ghana).

“She didn’t want any spe­cial treat­ment, but the re­al­ity is there are only so many hours in a day,” says Pinsler. “I of­ten had to re­mind her that it’s not a level play­ing field, you know, when she’s all the way in Europe.”

Pinsler also of­fers some ad­vice for as­pir­ing ath­letes and their par­ents: plan six months ahead. “Talk to the guid­ance coun­sel­lor be­fore school starts, have a frank and hon­est con­ver­sa­tion about the ap­pro­pri­ate course load and look care­fully at course se­lec­tion,” she adds. “You want ev­ery­one on the same page, so there’s a tri­an­gle of sup­port to rely on.” Quinn and her par­ents serve as a great ex­am­ple of a fam­ily who did just that.

Quinn, like so many ath­letes, has had her share of ob­sta­cles along the way — but the very same com­pet­i­tive drive that has made her into such a fear­some com­peti­tor on field seems to have helped her to over­come what­ever twists and turns she en­coun­ters off field.

Start­ing univer­sity has its own chal­lenges, and Quinn’s ac­cep­tance to Duke meant that she’d be sep­a­rated from her twin sis­ter for the first time. More than that, she also suf­fered an in­jury early on. “I tore my plan­tar fas­cia — the arch at the bot­tom of my foot, three times ac­tu­ally. So that was dif­fi­cult. I was out for most of my first sea­son at Duke,” Quinn laments.

“But then the turn of this year has been re­ally good for me. I was in­tro­duced into the women’s pro­gram, I’ve had a re­ally good time with the U-20 na­tional team, and then I also had a good spring sea­son at Duke.”

You never know when things are about to turn around. Like Canada’s sec­ond game of the World Cup, one minute you might be los­ing 2-0 to Fin­land at half­time, and the next you’ve won the game 3-2 and are walk­ing off the field to a rous­ing ren­di­tion of “O Canada.”

But, in­juries, aca­demic stresses and thou­sands of scream­ing fans aside, it’s the pas­sion for the sport that fu­els Quinn’s fire. So what’s her ad­vice for the lit­tle ath­lete that’s striv­ing to be the next Re­becca Quinn? “Just keep telling your­self that you’ve been at this sport for a while, you’re good at it, and you’re at this level for a rea­son — and that’s what you live off of.”

The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup kicked off Aug. 5th in Toronto

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