Q & A with U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year Julie Johnston
ussoccer.com speaks to 2012 Young Female Athlete of the Year Julie Johnston about her run as captain of the team that lifted the World Cup trophy in Japan and what lies ahead for the talented young defender.
Dec. 3, 2012
ussoccer.com: It was a fantastic year for the U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team. What are some of your memories the World Cup in Japan?
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Julie Johnston: “Winning the World Cup was just amazing. I think about it all the time. We played for each other and seeing all the hard work we did behind the scenes pay off was the best feeling ever as an athlete. After the whistle blew in the final, I just collapsed on the field. I kept dreaming of cool things to do if we won, and all I did was drop on the ground. I was at the bottom of the big dog pile. It was such an intense game, I was just so tired and so happy at the same time. I started crying right away and flashed back to all the camps we had and all the extra running we did and then I saw the team run out from the bench and it was just unreal.”
ussoccer.com: There have been some great players to win this award in the past. What does it mean to you to be added to that list?
JJ: “It’s an amazing honor to be listed with those players. Seeing what some of past award winners did after their youth careers really drives me to want to go further. Being selected for this award makes me feel like other people see a future for me and that’s really motivating for me as well.”
ussoccer.com: You are just the third defender to win the Young Female Athlete of the Year (along with one goalkeeper). Is it nice to be recognized for your hard work in the back?
JJ: “I am willing to do whatever the team needs me to do. To get recognized for playing defense is tremendous. It means a lot that people saw the hard work we did in Japan and it feels great that people recognized my passion to help the team in any way possible.”
ussoccer.com: Three of your U-20 teammates were nominated for this award (Crystal Dunn, Kealia Ohai and Vanessa DiBernardo). They all had fantastic performances as the World Cup as well.
JJ: “I was so excited to see the other players nominated. They are some of my best friends and they worked just as hard as I did. I’m happy for every one of them and they all could have easily been selected for this award.”
ussoccer.com: The U.S. youth programs have long been among the strongest in the world. How was your overall experience with the U-20s this year?
JJ: “The dedication and resources that U.S. Soccer has given to our youth women’s programs have been tremendous. We are all so appreciative of the opportunities we’ve been given and I feel blessed to have gone to all these camps and played for some fantastic coaches who have taught me so much and helped me love the game even more.”
ussoccer.com: It was a great year for the U-20s and you still have one more year of college soccer at Santa Clara. What does the future hold?
JJ: “The U-20s can be a big a step to the full team considering that some of the players from the other countries like Germany, North Korea and Nigeria are already playing for their full team. It gives us a glimpse of what may lie ahead and pushes people to become better during and after a World Cup experience.”
ussoccer.com: How much did the coaching staff for this year’s U-20 WNT help in your development?
JJ: “I loved Steve Swanson our U-20 coaching staff. Without them, none of this would have been possible. I learned so much from them and each one helped me individually. (U.S. Soccer Women’s Technical Director and former WNT captain) April Heinrichs really motivated me. She just demanded more from everyone, and especially me, as a leader, since she was one herself. It was great to have someone with the same passion and vision there supporting and motivating.”