Dana Larsen 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). Dana played as a forward and winger as a youth player, setting a tremendous example of work-rate, tenacity, intelligence on the field, and having a knack for finishing. In high school, she played club soccer year round (except for her freshman year), and competed in high school track & field during the spring to supplement her soccer training and competition. Dana has also played in the WPSL each season of her college career, helping lead the 2010 WPSL team to the Final Four.
Dana went on to play at Baylor University in Texas, (where she is currently a senior playing in her last year of collegiate eligibility), and where she has played or started in every game since the first game of her freshman season. Her college career (which isn’t over yet!) already includes a long list of impressive accomplishments on and off the field:
In 2011, her junior year, Larsen led Baylor in scoring and helped lead the team to its first ever NCAA tournament win and a top 25 end of season ranking.
How did you pick Baylor University as the place you wanted to go to school and play college soccer?
"Baylor wasn’t on the original list of schools I was looking into, but I received an email from the coach, Marci Jobson, telling me a little bit about herself and her plans on building the Baylor program. She had seen me play at a National Showcase, and knew Christian. I remember first turning to my dad and saying, "Baylor...I think I’ve heard of that school before." After doing some research, I decided I wanted to go on an unofficial visit just to see what the school looked like and get to know the coach and the current team. When I got there, I loved the brick buildings, the look of the campus, (which was sunny and warm in mid-January- a nice change-up from Wisconsin) and the school in general, discovering that it had a great pre-health program and a huge athletic department - being in the Big 12 Conference. I guess for me there wasn’t a moment where I suddenly knew I wanted to go to Baylor. I talked to a lot of people about the decision: my coach, my parents, friends. I even made a plus and minus chart of the final three schools I was deciding between, but in the end Baylor was the best fit in each category, and when I made the decision I felt good about it."
How did the training and competition you had as a youth player help prepare you for collegiate success?
"My youth soccer experience really changed when I was a U16 and started to train in the system and under the philosophies used at FC Wisconsin Eclipse now. That training experience made all the difference for me as far as being able to come in ready to play for my college team. The environment was completely different than my former club and former training. It focused on developing me in all areas, from technique and tactics to strength and mentality. It challenged me by pushing me outside of my comfort zone, which looking back on it really helped in preparation for entering college as a freshman. The competitions we entered made it possible for me to be seen by a lot of different colleges and ultimately be recruited at one of the largest showcase tournaments in the country."
What is your favorite part about playing in college?
"Some people would not agree with this answer at all but my favorite part of college soccer is preseason. Because its a fall sport we come in before classes start and really just devote our lives to the game. Eat, sleep and soccer. I love this time because of the bonding with teammates through the hard practices and being able to just totally focus on the game that I love to play without school and studying interfering."
What are your favorite memories of playing in club?
"My favorite memories of playing club are the times with teammates and their families off the field. Whether it was the first time we all froze to death taking ice baths together, or having team dinners together, it’s the friends I developed that I really remember and laugh at looking back on. Specifically, my favorite memory was at Surf Cup when our team lost in the semis but all went out on the beach with our families and just got to spend some quality time together."
How do you think your soccer career (youth and college) helped you most?
"Soccer really does provide so many intangibles that you don’t really realize until you’re removed from the sport for a little while and look back at how it shaped your life. I am currently in the process of applying to medical school and have had to fill out so many different application questions about what I’m passionate about, how I exemplify certain standards, or a difficult experience I’ve had to overcome. It’s funny, because for each answer my first thought is always about soccer. It really did teach me so much more than just the techniques and tactics of the game. I learned more about how to be a good person when you’re feeling great and at the top of your game and when you’ve hit that plateau and might be struggling for a while. So for me, I guess it helped to provide something in my life where I could continually strive to be better: a better player, a better teammate, a better person.
What is the best piece of advice you wish someone had given you while you were a youth soccer player?
"Hmmmmm. I think everyone’s journey is different, so I’m not really sure if there’s one magical piece of advice I would give to everyone. But I guess, I think it’s important to be thankful for every day you get to be out on the training field getting better. There were times I just got overwhelmed and caught up in trying to be perfect that I didn’t come out to every practice with that love that I really had for the game and the team I played for. Being in my final season now, I know it’s not the wins and losses that you necessarily remember, but the experience that you had getting closer to your teammates that really lasts."