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