In just a few years, Shannon Boxx has risen from relative soccer obscurity to one of the best players in the world. She recently returned from Zurich, Switzerland, where she was honored for finishing third in the voting for the 2005 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year.
She took some time out from her busy training camp schedule to talk about her new buddy Ronaldinho, her meteoric rise on the U.S. National Team and banana pancakes.
ussoccer.com: What was your reaction when you found out that the women’s national team coaches and captains had voted you as one of the top three players in the world?
Shannon Boxx: “I was a little confused, to be honest, but once it sunk in I was very honored and excited. I knew that it would be a long shot to win out over Birgit Prinz and Marta, who are both great players, but it was just an honor to be included in that group, especially as a defensive center midfielder. I know I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the past two years, and it’s really nice to be recognized, not only by my teammates who have always been so supportive, but also by the players and coaches around the world. I’ve gained confidence from my teammates who been there for me every step of the way. They are good friends. But to have people outside of your team recognize you, your confidence boosts even more.”
ussoccer.com: You already had a vacation planned in New Zealand and had to cut it a few days short to travel to Zurich and the FIFA World Gala. How does one get from Auckland, New Zealand to Switzerland?
SB: “It was a good 10-hour flight from New Zealand on Singapore Airlines, which I highly recommend to anyone. FIFA always treats the athletes very well, so I was in business class and had a flat bed to sleep in. I was in Singapore for three hours, which is a great airport to have a layover. There is fantastic shopping, although very expensive, and a bank of HUGE plasma TVs that are all playing soccer, even at three in the morning. It was awesome. Then I had a 13-hour flight to Zurich, got to the hotel, dropped my bags and went back to the airport to pick up my boyfriend Sean. Then I finally got to rest until about 3:30 when I went to a pre-awards press conference.”
ussoccer.com: You got to meet men’s finalists Frank Lampard, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o. Did you get a chance speak with them and if so, what did you talk about?
SB: “We didn’t have too much time to talk, but they were in the room waiting when we finished our press conference. At first I was shy, but then I said to myself, ‘what the heck’ and I went up to each one and introduced myself and we all congratulated each other. I knew if I had left that room without taking pictures with them I would have kicked myself. Later that night at the awards ceremony, I chatted with them again, but I don’t think I talked enough to get some free Chelsea or Barcelona tickets.”
ussoccer.com: When you were in Zurich did you ever stop for a moment and think about the fact that less than three year ago you didn’t have a cap and thought you were out of the WNT picture?
SB: “When the event was going on and I stood up there on stage, and they kept asking how does it feel, the words of ‘surprised’ and ‘excited’ kept coming out. I thought, ‘how am I here and how did it happen so fast?’ But I was there to make sure I enjoyed the moment and the experience to the fullest.”
ussoccer.com: How did your ascension to the world’s elite happen so fast?
SB: “You know, I was an okay player in college, but I think obviously the WUSA helped a lot and then dedicating myself to getting really, really fit in my third year of the WUSA made the difference. Once I got on the national team, it was the older players on the team that gave me confidence to know that I could play at this level. I depended more on the teammates around me – Julie, Mia, Lilly – and when they said something, I listened. I always saw how confident they were in seeing me next to them on the field, so my confidence grew from that as well. What surprised a lot of people maybe is that I came from nowhere, and I didn’t ease into the team, I started playing a big role right away, so perhaps it was easier to notice me. And I guess I’m not hard to miss when I’m always banging into people in the midfield.”
ussoccer.com: Your goal output has been very impressive for a defensive midfielder, a goal for a little less than every five games you’ve played (13 scores in 50 caps). You did not score a lot in the WUSA. To what do you attribute your scoring for the WNT?
SB: “Really, it’s the players around me that make it much easier to get goal scoring chances. In the WUSA, I had a set role and that wasn’t to go forward very often, but on the national team we have so many great players that I can pick and choose my chances to go forward. I love going forward, but I know defending is my number one priority. It’s fun for me because I don’t do it often. I love the idea of where my position is because I start deeper than everyone else, and I seem to have more space when I do go forward. It’s kind of like a sneak attack, but in the end I will only go forward in the moments I know someone is covering for me defensively.”
ussoccer.com: You grew up just minutes from The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. in Redondo Beach. How do you account for the fact that you have scored in each game you have played there for the USA?
SB: “Can we have all our games at the HDC? As soon as we dropped down to Fullerton, my goal scoring dried up. I guess Fullerton is too far for all the Redondo Beach fans to travel.”
ussoccer.com: Going back to your trip to New Zealand, how was that experience and what did do?
SB: “It was an awesome experience. If you love outdoors, New Zealand is the place to go. It seemed like we went everywhere and did everything, but one of my favorite things was spending some time in Abel Tasman, which is a National Forrest along the Tasman Sea. We took a water taxi, hiked for five hours, woke up the next morning and kayaked 15 kilometers back to the start. We had a Maori guide who was great and told us a lot about their culture.”
ussoccer.com: We heard you had some trouble on the luge track in Queenstown?
SB: “Ahh…yeah. We went to the Queenstown, which is a little resort town, and took a gondola and then a ski lift to the top of the mountain and then we rode a sort of a luge with wheels down to the bottom, Winter Olympics style. I am so competitive that I wanted to beat everyone down the hill, and unfortunately knocked a kid off the track. I made sure he was okay before I kept going, but in the end, I lost the race.”
ussoccer.com: Your older sister Gill won a gold medal in softball at the 1996 Olympics and you are believed to be the only two sisters to win Olympic gold medals in different team sports. Who is better at the other sisters’ sport? Are you better at softball than she is at soccer?
SB: “Literally, I have copied her exactly the same in everything she did. Our soccer coaches used to tell me I looked and played exactly like her and I know in softball I played the same position (catcher) and copied her again. I went to so many of her softball games. Growing up, we played ice hockey, I was the skater, but she was the better stick handler. She could throw a football better, but I was the better runner. In short, I can’t that answer that question.”
ussoccer.com: You have been known to eat banana pancakes for breakfast before games on every game morning. Is that still one of your rituals?
SB: “It’s been two and half years and I think I am getting a little sick of the banana pancakes. I told myself that in 2006 I might have to switch to banana French toast, which might be a little hard to find in China, so I might have to do without.”