Former University of Wisconsin outside back, and long-time alumni, Lindsey Johnson shares her thoughts on college soccer, the youth path that helped her be prepared for success, and the lessons she has taken from her journey in the game!
Lindsey Johnson played youth soccer on an FC Milwaukee team coached by Christian Lavers that went on a remarkable run of national achievement over 3 years. During the team’s U16 – U18 seasons, the team proved itself as consistently one of the top 10 teams in the country by winning the USYS Midwest Regional League once and finishing second once, qualifying for 2 USYS Region II Midwest Championship Finals (where they dropped both heartbreaking games in overtime), and qualifying for both the Disney Showcase –Showcase Division Finals and the San Diego Surf Cup Finals (losing in overtime again).
Lindsey played multiple positions through her career in youth and college soccer, finally settling in as an outside back for the University of Wisconsin. Her play was marked by her tremendous power and athleticism, her ability to serve the ball accurately over great distance, and great mental toughness. She played club soccer year round every year of high school except her freshman year, and played in the WPSL each season of her college career, helping lead the 2010 WPSL team to the WPSL Final Four.
Lindsey played in 83 games in her career at Wisconsin, starting 81 of them. As a freshmen, she was named to the Big 10 All-Freshman Team in 2009. Her senior year she was named UW’s Defensive Player of the Year, as well as earning Second Team All-Big Ten and Second Team All-Great Lakes honors. During her career at Wisconsin, the Badgers qualified for the NCAA Tournament 3 teams, advancing to the NCAA Division I Sweet 16 in 2009.
How did you pick UW as the place you wanted to go to school and play college soccer?
"I didn't think I wanted to go to UW until I came and visited the school and saw how amazing it really is. My parents pushed me to visit, and when I got there I was able to see everything the school and the team had to offer. I immediately fell in love with the team and that was my number one reason for going to Madison. My club team was extremely close and I was able to find that same connection with the girls at UW. I knew it overall was a very good school and that was important to me, since I had no idea what I wanted to get a degree in."
How did the training and competition you had as a youth player help prepare you for collegiate success?
"I think that, by being a part of such a committed youth team, I learned to completely dedicate myself to training everyday and like doing that - which is something you need to be able to do to be successful in college. Training in my club years definitely prepared me for anything I could have possibly encountered at UW. In many ways, our club trainings were the most challenging trainings I've been in. If I wouldn't have been pushed so hard when I was younger, I honestly don't think I would have continued playing soccer in college. It took a lot of hard practices, discussions with the coaches and players, and sometimes really difficult days, for me to understand that I was a talented player, and that I was capable of doing more, and playing beyond club. I learned in the process that I needed to continue playing in college - I loved the game. Looking back on club training and everything that goes along with it, I miss it, a lot."
What are your favorite memories of playing in club?
"My team was so incredibly close - I don't know if I can pick a favorite memory of club. I played with some amazing girls and a large majority of them will be life long best friends. I loved traveling with the team and spending all weekend (and sometimes longer) with my teammates. I think my favorite trip of all time was Surf Cup - our whole team (parents, coaches, players) went out to eat by the ocean and we ended up having a singing battle between the parents, players and coaches. It is probably one of my favorite soccer memories ever. I have lots of memories of tough practices, where emotion from the players and coaches was really strong and powerful. I miss that openness and rawness we had in my club team. I remember scoring the winning goal at the Regional Championships at U-13 - one of my all-time favorite memories. I remember our annual team goal setting meetings, which I really loved, and which really prepared me for what we would do in college. I really liked knowing what we all wanted to get better at, what we thought everyone else was good at, and what we wanted to achieve for the year. It was extremely beneficial at the beginning of each year."
How do you think your soccer career (youth and college) helped you most?
"If I didn't have soccer I can honestly say I have no idea where I would have gone to school and what I would have done with my time. Soccer helped me find myself and and find my true passions, both during club and college. As a youth player, I learned that I wanted to continue playing soccer in college, and I devoted a lot of time and effort in order to do so. In college I realized I still wanted to play soccer after my eligibility was done, but I also had other ambitions - like getting a degree and a job I am happy with. Before my senior season of college all I could think about doing after college was continue playing. After that season ended I realized I can continue to play soccer if I want to, but I want to find a job that involves what I love doing. I still have to finish school, but I'm pretty certain soccer will be a part of my life regardless if I continue playing or not."
What is the best piece of advice you wish someone had given you while you were a youth soccer player?
"Never, ever take a single day for granted and make the best out of everything. If you want to be the best, fastest, smartest, quickest, trickiest, you have to work at it! Things don't get easier as you get older, take advantage of the coaches you have and the things they are teaching you. Imagine what your life would be like if you didn't have soccer in it, then decide whether or not you want to work your hardest because if you don't you will NEVER reach your full potential as a player. I can say I wasn't always as good as I could have been because I took some things for granted and didn't always work as hard as I should have. I learned that as I got older, but I will regret some of it for a long time. The last thing you want is to regret not giving effort."