SA Online Ask a Star: Carla Overbeck

Kate Macfarlane

Baltimore, Md.

During the Olympics, you were not really in Atlanta. Did you see this as a good or bad thing and why?

Carla Overbeck: I think you can look at it both ways. Our team was in Atlanta for the Opening Ceremonies; we were on the campus at Georgia Tech and involved in the festivities of the Olympics, and there was a LOT going on there. I think it was better for our team and more advantageous being away from the "village," because we were away from all the distractions. Yes, we were on the outside and it was too bad that we couldn't get to other events, but we watched as much as we could on T.V. and I think it was beneficial to our whole team because we were more focused in on what our plan was.

Pete Bailey: And for the cities you played in, soccer was their total Olympic experience.

CO: That's right. In Orlando, they made up this little mock village for us at the University of Central Florida, and, I'm telling you, those people were so excited that we were there -- they made us feel great. They catered to our needs; it was just an unbelievable experience there -- the people were absolutely wonderful.

PB: It sounds like you might have been better off than some of the athletes in Atlanta.

CO: Exactly.

PB: Let me just ask you one question that I'm sure most of us who've never achieved at such an elite athletic level are curious about. What does it feel like to win a gold medal?

CO: It's something that I can't even describe. I mean, you're out there with your teammates, people that you've been working with so long and so hard to achieve this one goal, and, honestly, it's like a dream come true. I know that sounds sort of cliche-ish, but it's something I'd always dreamed about. You know, you grow up watching the Olympics on T.V. and wishing that someday you could play in an Olympics. To be marching out their on the field, with the Olympic song just gives you chills. It's absolutely unbelievable.

PB: Wow, that sounds awesome.

CO: (laughs) It was awesome!

Nat Alderman

Pepperell Mass.

The coaching change from Anson Dorrance to Tony DiCicco appeared seamless from the outside. What changes did you see as a player in practices and playing style?

CO: You know, Anson is a great coach. He's been extremely successful at North Carolina, and he was very successful with the national team. Tony was our goalkeeper coach/assistant coach in 1991, when we won the world championship in China, so the transition was very smooth. We all had a great deal of respect for Tony as an assistant coach, as we do now for him as the head coach.

Obviously, Tony kept a lot of ideas that the two coaches shared and will continue to do that, but I think the major change is that when Anson was the coach we went forward and we would attack a lot, sometimes at all costs, whereas Tony, being a goalkeeper, is more defensive-minded. We've learned to play possession more. (In the Olympics) We kept the ball a lot more, didn't chase as much, and would go forward when it was on. So, I think we were more organized in our attacks, because we waited and were patient.

Ken Milne

Needham, Mass.

First, congratulations to you and the team on the Olympics. We saw the semifinals and the finals along with a lot of other Olympic sports, and there was nothing close to the skill, athleticism and excitement of your games.

My question: I've read the team has worked on introducing more control, relying less on a dump and run, or over the top, style. While there is a change compared to Sweden '95, the control style play seems to take place in the back half of the field. As the team moves into the attacking third through balls and individual runs still dominate. What are your thoughts on how the team should develop its strategy in this regard?

CO: I sort of touched on that in the last question, but, yes, we were a totally different team from the one in the '95 World Championship. You saw that Brandi Chastain was added into the back, and that was a big addition for our team, because she's very comfortable on the ball. Although the coach would probably like Joy (Fawcett) in the midfield, because she's such an outstanding midfielder, I would fight to keep her in the back -- she's wonderful back there.

He's right in that we did hold the ball and start to build from the back. It's easier for us to possess the ball in the back because we're numbers up. We are a team that likes to use our midfield. We probably have the best midfield in the world -- they're very good with the ball at their feet, they find a seam, they find great passing channels that allow us to get them the ball. And then, with two players up top in Mia and Tiff Milbrett who are extremely fast, getting in behind the defense is not easy for them, but that's an option that we use quite often. We've found that the more we possess the ball, the more attractively we've played, and I think people enjoyed that more than just banging it over the top and letting our forwards run onto it.

Jim Moeller

Gettysburg, Penn.

Can you give us a little insight and overview of how the ACC is going to look this year?

CO: The ACC is a tough conference in women's soccer. Obviously, Carolina is very strong. N.C. State, who beat us in the regular season last year and knocked us out of the tournament, is very good. As far as Duke is concerned, we lost seven seniors, five of whom started, so we're very young, but I think we're going to do all right this year. Then you've got Wake Forest, which I think was added three years ago, and Florida State, which is in its second year. And with Virginia and Maryland coming along, I just think it's an exciting conference to be in -- every ACC game is a battle.

PB: You guys were struggling a little bit at first, but you scored an impressive win over Stanford at the Carolina Classic.

CO: Yeah, we did struggle. We played a great game against Carolina in the opener, and then we lost to Nebraska and UNC-Greensboro. Hopefully, we're back on track now, and we'll try to finish out the rest of the season very strong. Last year, our schedule was the toughest in the country, and I think it'll be the toughest this year, too. But I think the girls enjoy having a tough schedule. They wouldn't want to come in and play teams that they could beat handily. We want to challenge them here, and that's what they're getting.

PB: Do you take anything that you've learned from your national team coaches and try to apply it to the kids that you coach at Duke?

CO: Yeah, I do. The possession stuff, and obviously fitness things that we do. Since I had to go through them, I want the girls to do it to -- that's a little treat for them. Bill and I have our own style here, and if I can just bring little bits and pieces from the national team, I like to help out in that way.

Megan Jasinski

Scottsville, N.Y.

At what age did you start to play soccer? Did you pick up on it right away? Did you enjoy it from the start?

CO: I grew up in Dallas, and I started playing on a rec league team at the age of five. Then, when I was eleven, I tried out for a U-14 club team called the Sting -- they were a very known team in Dallas -- and I made it. But, for kids coming out these days, I think it's important to do as many sports as you can. I mean, I did basketball in high school and junior high; I played softball. For me, I really enjoyed soccer, but there were also other interests, so I didn't make soccer the number one priority. When it was soccer season, I played that; when it was softball season, I played that. Basketball, volleyball. I think it's good that kids are very active, and they shouldn't just limit themselves to one sport.

Margaret Forbes

Brookings, Oregon

Carla, I have heard much about the excellent youth soccer programs in North Texas. How much do you credit these programs with your successful development as a player?

CO: I credit North Texas a great deal, because I was fortunate enough to have people that really cared about the growth of girls' and women's soccer helping me, personally. Like I said, I played for a very good club team in the Dallas Sting, I played on the North Texas state team, which was very competitive -- we went to regional camp, and from there on to national camp. So, I was very fortunate growing up with the people that were helping me individually and the teams that I played on.

It was amazing, because a lot of people didn't really know much about soccer, but they volunteered and helped out, and that's what it takes. If you don't know that much, just let the kids have fun and keep them interested, because there's a lot of drop-off when they're not having fun. I think that's important. Maybe parents are saying "Oh, I don't know what's going on," but if they're out there, and they're encouraging their kids, that's all they need.

PB: You mentioned that one of the most important things to do is to keep it fun for the kids. What are some of the things that you can remember from your experiences, that made it an enjoyable activity for you? In addition to winning, of course!

CO: Yeah, winning always makes it a little more fun. I guess the friendships I developed, and just being out there and playing the game. Obviously, you don't want a coach that's going to get on the kids and scream at them all the time. You want it to be fun, and fortunately, it was fun for me, so I continued to play.

Roger W. Walker

Waynesville, Ohio

As a youth player, what coaching attributes were the most important to your development? I, too, believe that "it's only a game" but, at the same time.... it IS cool to win! Where (and how) do you think the "line" should be drawn and how does that "line" differ as the player matures?

CO: You need to give kids some type of direction. I the tone that you use is very important, because if you're always getting on somebody and screaming, even at U-16, U-19 or the collegiate level, they don't want to hear negative criticism all the time. You have to give them some constructive criticism, and if they do something well, tell them that they did well. But, like I said, the tone is really important. You could be getting on somebody, and letting them know what they could be doing differently, in a positive tone.

Allison Amavisca

Raleigh, N.C.

Were you always a defender? If not, when did you become one? Is it true that it is hard to get recruited by colleges as a defender?

CO: Growing up, I played center midfield, and I played some up front. I guess I played some sweeper with my U-19 team too, so when I got to college, that was all I played -- defense and sweeper. With the national team, we went to a zone in the back, so I took on more marking responsibilities.

As far as recruiting goes, nowadays, I think the coaches out there, unless they need a position-specific player like a defender or a striker, are basically just looking for good athletes. If you're well-rounded, and you're a good athlete, you can adjust and learn to play anywhere. I shouldn't speak for everyone, but I know that's what we like to do here. Unless you're losing a big-time defender, and you know of a big-time defender in high school, then obviously you go after her. For the most part, you just look for athletic kids that are coachable and that can play different positions.

PB: And that's not just soccer-specific, that happens in a lot of sports. High school running backs become safeties in college; 6-6 point guards become small forwards or off guards.

CO: Yep, I know that happens with some of the football players we recruit here too, so it's not just happening in soccer.

Alanna Elie

Washington, D.C.

I'm a fourteen year old U16 premier division player in my sophomore year of high school, and I just started trying out for ODP this Summer. Does ODP really give you a better chance of getting into college or making the Olympics or national team?

CO: I think it pretty much depends on your state. When I was in high school, I did not play for the high school soccer team. My club team was very good, and I played for the state team, which is a part of the Olympic Development Program. If you're not involved in other sports, I'd say go ahead and play high-school soccer, but also try to get involved in the ODP. In that program, you will get kids that are probably better than a high school level, so you'll be competing against better kids. A lot of schools might just go to ODP to recruit. Like I said, for us, ODP is a good place to start, so we start there, and then we try to go to other tournaments all over the United States. I would suggest that if you can afford to do that, and if the time permits it, to get involved with ODP.

PB: So, since you weren't playing on the soccer team in high school, were you playing on other varsity teams while you played soccer outside of school?

CO: Yes. What I would do was play volleyball during the fall, and also play with my club team and my state team at the same time. Then, in the spring, I would play basketball, and that was when our high school soccer season was, so I elected to play basketball, while playing with club and select teams.

PB: Were you a point guard when you played basketball?

CO: Uh-huh, I was a point guard, and in volleyball I was a setter and a hitter.

PB: That must have been really fun -- getting to play so many sports each year.

CO: I enjoyed it, and I had a problem with just doing one thing -- I was afraid that I might get burned out. I have two older brothers and an older sister, all of whom were sports fanatics, so I followed in their footsteps and did whatever they did, pretty much.

Don Francis

Gardner, Kan...

What do you think are the keys to playing the Sweeper position and what do you see in the opponents that makes you decide whether or not to go on the attack?

CO: Being a sweeper, you are the last field player back (besides the goalkeeper, of course). There's so much going on in front of you -- you have to recognize all the breakdowns, and, as a sweeper, it's your fob to try to fix those breakdowns. You can move your players around on the field and communicate with them -- I think communication is a huge part of being a good defender. You can let the player on the ball or the marking back know where their support is -- whether you push them to the inside, or to the outside. So, communication is key, and your job is to solve all breakdowns.

As far as going forward, you have to pick and choose your times. A lot of times when you choose to go forward, you're unmarked, so your team needs to make sure they get you the ball, because noone usually tracks a sweeper running through. Now, I'm not saying to go through every time, because a lot of times it won't be on, but if you see an opening -- maybe you've just solved one of the opponents' attacks and they're a little bit down that they didn't score -- you just have to find the hole. If you carefully pick and choose when you go forward, you can be very effective since you're not marked.

PB: You mentioned that you've played several positions, and obviously sweeper is the one that you're best at. Is that the position you enjoy playing the most, as well?

CO: I enjoy playing in midfield because there's more action -- you get to go forward, and you have to go back and defend, too. But I enjoy sweeper because you have to think more, and the bad thing is, if you make a mistake in the back, it could cost you a goal.

PB: Like that one against Sweden?

CO: (Laughs) Right. That position is sort of like a thankless job, because a lot of goals that are scored are the defense's fault. But I enjoy it; I really like it. You have to have a certain mentality to play in the back, I think..

Gregory Gaver

Bowling Green, Ohio

Are the women on the national team really as close friends as they appear to be?

CO: That's cool that he recognized that we are close friends, because that's the truth. The core of the team has been together since 1987, 1988, and we have gone through so much together -- the first World Championship, the one in '95, and now the Olympics. It's very hard to find a team that's as close as we are. We were living together in Orlando the last year and a half, away from husbands, away from families, and that definitely is difficult. You just recognize that you're all in that situation, and you have to make the best of it. For so long we've been working toward a common goal, and I think we've just bonded. We bond on the field, of course, but we're great friends off the field, too. I think that closeness off the field helps us and makes us play better for each other when we are on the field.

PB: You obviously spent a lot of time with each other in Orlando --
what sorts of cool things would you do together off the field?

CO: Actually, Shannon MacMillan got one of those SeaDoos, a Waverunner I guess it's called, and we would all go out to the lake and take turns riding that. We needed something other than soccer. I know some people went to Disney World, but, on our days off, the last thing I wanted to do was go walk around a big amusement park. But we did a lot -- we rollerbladed, we went to the movies, we went to dinner together, we had parties at our house (Julie Foudy, Carin Gabarra, Kristine Lilly, and I rented a house down there). We'd have birthday parties and bridal showers for people getting married. It was great -- we had a lot of fun, and it sort of took your mind off of what was going on back home. There were probably five of us that were married, and that's hard, being away from your husband that long. We'd be training four to six weeks, and we'd get maybe five, six days off. Obviously we'd all go home those days, but it was tough -- having everyone else around made it a lot easier.

Gina Gatto

Mequon, Wis..

First of all congratulations on the gold medal! I was wondering if you and the team will be playing in between now and the next World Cup?

CO: I'm not sure what the schedule is -- I've heard a couple of different things. One is that we're going to be taking a victory tour, which I've heard is going to take place in December or January, hopefully trying to kick off the new women's league they're trying to start next year. I'm not sure how that will work, whether we'll play against college teams, or a select college team or what. I've also heard that from now until probably eight months before the next world cup, we'll be having training camps, we'll go on some tours perhaps, but I think the majority of the team is trying to stay together. Right now, we're just training on our own, you know, we're obviously taking some time off, and then when we're called in to camp, hopefully we'll all be back.

PB: How about for you personally? How long do you plan with the team?

CO: Yeah, I want to continue. I'm 28, so I'm gettin' up there a little bit, but I think my heart's still in it. And I really enjoy playing with the rest of my teammates, so I'm going to try to go as long as I can, hopefully through 2000. I've never been to Australia, so...

Bryce Anderson

Omaha, Neb.

There's been a lot of support for the current U.S. Women's team in the last 5 years. But it takes a continuing effort to remain at the top. Do you think that commitment for supporting player development for future teams exists?

CO: I know the US Soccer Federation put a huge amount of risk down. I know they poured a lot of money into our team and our women's program for the '95 World Championship and the Olympics. Now that that is over, obviously they have a lot of expenses on the men's side that they need to take care of, because they have a bunch of teams competing for their world championships, or in qualifying. I hope that they will realize how important and how much their support was needed for us. I mean, shoot, we were on salaries -- they basically took our team on full-time for a year and a half. That was extremely needed and very appreciated. I know they've worked to organize another women's team, the U-20 team, and I believe they're trying to do something with a U-16 national team. So, I think they realize that in order for us to stay competitive with other countries, we need to A) start a women's league so that when people graduate from college they have someplace to play, and B) continue the development of the youth coming up. We can't do it without the Federation's support, and they helped the women's team a great, great deal. Hopefully, we made them proud

Juli Buirley

Troy, Ohio

Carla, Do you think that a professional women's league is a strong possibility in the U.S.? In your opinion, are the huge crowds that attended the Olympic matches an indication of such a possibility?

CO: I think the Olympics was something special. I think Americans just get excited about the actual Olympic word, and fortunately for us, they were behind us all the way, and supporting our team. Hopefully if they kick off the new women's league that they're working on, our playing for and winning the gold will spark an interest in people so that they'll want to see more women's games. This league is a greatly-needed thing; we need it desperately to continue to grow as a country in the game of soccer. Hopefully, if we could do this victory tour before the league gets going, it will spark some interest in fans, and we can get some people out to watch the games -- I sure hope so!

We'd like to thank everyone who sent in questions for Carla. We received lots of questions, so if yours didn't make it this time, try again with our next star, who will be announced shortly.

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