Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Kristine Lilly: 'A ball, chaos, oranges -- and fun!'
by Kristine Lilly, May 19th, 2013 2AM

TAGS:  youth boys, youth girls


In the Youth Soccer Insider's latest edition of its "When They Were Children" series, Kristine Lilly remembers her early years of Connecticut youth soccer, which her set on a path to becoming the world record holder for national team appearances (352) and winning world championships with the USA. The account is an excerpt from her e-book, "Girls Soccer: My Story -- Dream, Believe, Achieve."

By Kristine Lilly

It was the late 1970s. I was 6 years old when I started playing soccer. Well I am not sure if what I played could be called “soccer.” I was out on the field with other boys and girls and there was a ball and chaos. What took place between the lines was FUN!

I remember the color of one of my first teams, light blue; I remember we played on Saturday mornings, players’ dads coached our team, we ate oranges at halftime, popsicles after the game and putting on my uniform and loving it.

I don’t remember how many games we won or lost, or who was a good player or who could kick the ball really far. What I remember most is the fun I had and waking up on Saturday mornings excited to go to my soccer game.

My favorite thing about soccer when I was 6 years old and probably until I was about 16 years old were the oranges at halftime. It was as simple as that. I remember trying to eat as many as I could before the game started up again. I have to say I never got sick so I guess I ate the perfect amount. So you see it wasn’t the Xs and Os or the technical work or how many goals I scored that made me happy, it was the oranges and my teammates.

I was a young female soccer player and life was simple and fun. But there was one problem: there were no girls soccer teams! So I showed up for the boys tryouts and -- since no one said “no” -- I tried out. I ended up being good enough and made the team. From 2nd to 8th grade I played with the boys on my hometown travel team, the Wilton Wonders. There was no recruiting players, no switching teams, you just played for your town and that was it. We played against neighboring towns so it was Wilton vs. the World!

I loved every second of it. The boys I played with treated me as a sister and friend, which meant I got no free passes or special treatment. I earned every ball, assist and goal. If I wanted to play, I had to work hard; if I fell, I had to bounce right back up and hold back my tears. That kind of treatment made me feel like I was part of something special, and on one particular occasion I knew that I was ...

Our travel team arrived for a tournament in Niagara Falls, New York. As we prepared for our first game our coach was called to an impromptu meeting, where he was told we couldn’t play because there was a girl on our team: Me!

Instead of sitting me out, my coach and team refused to play. It didn’t matter that I was a girl. I was part of their team. As it turned out, that display of team cohesion was my first glimpse of athletic integrity and sportsmanship.

(Excerpted from "Girls Soccer: My Story -- Dream, Believe, Achieve" by Kristine Lilly, an e-book that includes 74 videos. Lilly, who debuted for the USA at age 16 in 1987 and retired in 2010 at age 39, won two World Cups and two Olympic gold medals. She won four national championships with the University of North Carolina, and played pro ball in Sweden, the WUSA and WPS. An introductory video of the e-book, a collaboration with Coerver Coaching, can be seen HERE)

Previous editions of the YouthSoccerInsider’s “When They Were Children” series:
Darlington Nagbe, Sean Johnson, Nick Rimando, Luis Silva, Juan Agudelo
Michael Bradley
Chris Wondolowski
Hope Solo
Jurgen Klinsmann
Mario Balotelli & Philipp Lahm
Nani & David Silva
Cristiano Ronaldo & Danny Welbeck
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Andres Iniesta & Andriy Shevchenko
Didier Drogba
Lionel Messi
U.S. Women World Cup 2011 (Alex Morgan & Co.)
Logan Pause, David Ferreira, Fredy Montero, Dwayne De Rosario, CJ Sapong, Perry Kitchen, Tim Ream

  1. Ronnie j Salvador
    commented on: May 19, 2013 at 10:13 p.m.
    Nice article. Too many parents and coaches these days forget that most important aspect: make it Fun! I would guess the tournament in Niagara Falls that wanted you thrown out did that because your team would beat the local team...
  1. stewart hayes
    commented on: August 21, 2014 at 1:10 p.m.
    The book is $50... don't think too many players will be purchasing it.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Youth Soccer Insider
Reffing Futsal (Part 1): Calling and counting fouls     
Futsal has been growing rapidly in the USA as it's a wonderful player development tool. But ...
'Fun, friends and health' is what youth soccer should be about (Q&A Shannon Higgins-Cirovski)    
After starting for the USA when it won the inaugural Women's World Cup on 1991, Shannon ...
After Concussion: Don't Just See A Doctor, Be Sure To See The Right Doctor    
Much has been written about concussion in young athletes but today I want to devote a ...
Ref Watch: How the last game of the season can present unique challenges    
I'm a positive thinker. But all the positive-thinking in the world cannot erase the fact that ...
Brain expert explains the wisdom of USSF's heading policy for youngsters     
Dr. Robert Cantu, one of the USA's leading experts on concussions in sports, responded to some ...
The border tug of war: Mexico courting U.S. talent is a 'good sign'    
In 1998, the Mexican government changed its laws to allow dual citizenship, thus enabling U.S.-born Mexican-Americans ...
Heading ban for 10-year-olds and younger makes sense, but important concussion questions remain    
In recent years, new science has provided clearer information on the dangers of concussions and studies ...
Stop interrupting: Substitute sensibly     
Part of this I found amusing as I reffed 8-year-old boys whose coach had them wear ...
College Choice: Taking the right steps makes the process more enjoyable    
Selecting the right college can be frustrating, and even cause anxiety for many families. Many kids ...
Throw-ins: What refs get wrong and what coaches can do right     
What rule do refs in the youth game tend to get wrong most often?
>> Youth Soccer Insider Archives