U.S. Olympian Julie Johnston on instilling a love of the game in kids
By Greg Bach
Julie Johnston’s love of soccer was cultivated on the sun-baked fields of her youth in Mesa, Ariz., where she learned the game from coaches who genuinely cared.
Who knew the all-important value of making it fun.
And who were encouraging and supportive every step of the way.
“When I was young my coaches made soccer fun for me,” says Johnston, one of the stars of the U.S. women’s 2015 World Cup-winning team, where she was nominated for the prestigious Golden Ball Award for her outstanding play throughout the tournament. “I fell in love with learning how to play and I was motivated by seeing my improvements month by month.”
SportingKid Live caught up with the tenacious 24-year-old defender, who will play a major role for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team in its bid to strike gold in Rio, to talk youth sports, coaching kids, and more:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What’s your message to volunteers coaching youth soccer?
JOHNSTON: Simplify the game for them so that their creativity can show. Help them fall in love with the game so that they can find out the type of player they want to be and can be. I loved it when my coaches set up drills allowing me to figure out what worked best on my own before they made coaching points. This allowed me to understand the game at a different level.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How can coaches help young girls understand that setbacks and mistakes are part of the learning and developing process?
JOHNSTON: Adversity happens to every athlete and it’s important to know it’s a part of growing. The mental side of the game is even more important to develop as you get older to help young girls realize the positive side of setbacks and that you can learn and use that as fuel is a very powerful thing.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: When you look back on all the coaches you have played for from a young girl until now what is something that a coach told you along the way that has really stuck with you and impacted you?
JOHNSTON: The best thing a coach can do is believe in you. My club coaches always helped me with setting goals in regard to where I wanted to be and how to get there.
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