FRISCO, Texas (June 2, 2017) - Former North Texas Soccer Olympic Development Program (ODP) and Dallas Texans player Abby Smith has received her first call-up to the U.S. Women’s National Team ahead of friendly matches against Sweden and Norway. North Texas Soccer sat down with the Boston Breakers goalkeeper to get her thoughts on her first call-up and to look back on her days playing North Texas Soccer.
“When I got the email I was very excited. It has been a long year after coming back from an injury, but getting back into the [National Women’s Soccer League] season was exciting,” Smith said. “It is such a great honor to get recognized and achieve basically every girl’s dream.”
While Smith, who has played on multiple U.S. Youth National Teams, expressed her eagerness to represent the red, white and blue on the senior level, she was also quick to emphasize that while getting the call-up was certainly a goal, there is plenty more work to do.
“When I finally got the call-up I was super pumped, but it is not the end goal,” Smith said. “I want to keep working hard to improve on certain aspects and advance as a player. I still have a lot to work on.”
When looking back on her youth career, the North Texas State Cup and US Youth Soccer Southern Regional Premier League (SRPL) were the first competitions that came to mind. The former University of Texas keeper won a SRPL title and two State Cup titles with Dallas Texans 94.
“State Cup was always a super fun adventure, and Premier League was the top league that everyone played in,” Smith said. “We were always striving to win, and those were the best memories because they were building blocks to where I am as a player today.”
Smith, who is native of Plano, Texas, also won the 2009 US Youth Soccer Region III Championships with Dallas Texans and advanced to the finals of the 2009 US Youth Soccer National Championships.
“At that age, regionals and nationals were the biggest deals. Those were our world, and winning the National Championships was our World Cup,” Smith said. “Those competitions were the biggest stages, and we learned that in order to compete on those stages, you have to do the small and tedious things that help you at the end of the day.”
Smith also spent plenty of years in the North Texas and Region III ODP pools. Smith represented North Texas at the 2009 US Youth Soccer ODP Championships, where her side reached the finals, and Smith was awarded the Golden Glove, given to the top goalkeeper in the age group.
“ODP helped me improve as a player because I trained with so many different people. It made things unpredictable at times because you had less of an idea of who you would play with,” Smith said. “You had to adjust on your feet, which helps mentally and helps you mature as a player.”
Whether it was quality of other players in trying to make the North Texas ODP team, or the quality of other teams playing in North Texas, Smith credits the competition of playing in North Texas as giving her an edge.
“It was a big advantage coming out of North Texas. North Texas teams were always competing for championships,” Smith said. “North Texas had a wide variety of players to choose from, and it made things harder and more competitive. It had a big role because we didn’t have anything easy.”
Smith explains that playing in these competitions at a young age allowed her to prioritize and figure out what she wanted for her future.
“You get a good sense of what you want, whether you want to put in the work to play at a high level or you don’t. A lot of my teammates were very enthusiastic and loved to play, so we were able to grow together,” Smith said. “You could tell the players who were doing extra and taking practice seriously, and stuff like that can get over-looked at times. Players don’t just come from nothing; you have to go through a process.”
Smith adds that one of the best pieces of advice came from current Head Development Coach for the U.S. Youth Women’s National Teams April Kater, who stressed being patient and not getting too ahead of yourself.
“It is advice that I still use today,” Smith said. “You have to be patient, but you also have to work hard because there are a lot of people in this country fighting for this spot, and if you get complacent then someone won’t and they could pass you up.”
When it comes to giving her own advice to young players, Smith recommends giving more focus to the technical side of the game, as well as making sure you are playing a game that you love.
“Our country is super athletic, but I think a lot of players aren’t watching a lot of soccer. I was constantly watching or playing soccer, and I think watching gives a soccer savvy and the soccer smarts that are a huge part of the game,” Smith said. “At the same time, having fun while playing a sport so much is very important. If you take it too seriously you can get burnt out, but loving what you are doing will allow you to get better and hold yourself to a higher standard.”