Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Isolina heading for Georgia

Photos: Isolina Ottavi in action

Walter Pless: How old are you?

Isolina Ottavi: I’m 19 years old.

WP: How long were you with the TIS?

IO: I was with the TIS for a year on a 12-month scholarship, which started in September 2008.

WP: How was the TIS experience?

IO: It has been an amazing year. I have loved every minute of it, from training and games to our trips away. It’s just been a full-on experience that’s challenged me both physically and mentally, and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to be part of the TIS squad this past year. I think going to China with the squad in April has probably been the best experience of my life so far. Playing in a different state is always thrilling, but playing is a different country altogether is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often and the fact that we got to travel there and experience such a different culture and play was just awesome.

WP: What representative honours have you achieved?

IO: For soccer, I made the Women’s Southern team 2007, 2008 and 2009, and I made the Women’s State team in 2007.

WP: Have you always been a goalkeeper?

IO: I haven’t always been a goalkeeper. I started playing football when I was 14 for my high school team and I was a forward. But, I filled in for my sister’s team sometimes, as a goalkeeper, when I was in grade10.

WP: Why did you become a goalkeeper?

IO: I actually never wanted to be a keeper. I always wanted to be a forward. It wasn’t even until the World Cup in 2006 that I really took an interest in football. Before then, I’d wanted to play basketball professionally. At the start of 2007, I was looking to play club and the Zebras Premier League Women’s team needed a goalkeeper, so my dad persuaded me into taking that spot with the logic that this way I’d be getting a full game every week, whereas if I’d approached another club as a field player with not much experience, I’d probably get half the game time. So, I gave it a shot.

WP: What is the best part of goalkeeping and what is the worst?

IO: The best part is making a great save when it really counts. Nothing compares to the feeling you get when you pull off something great when your team really needs you to. Keeping a clean sheet and playing a good game always makes me feel good, but to me, saving just one crazy shot that was really meant to go in will put a grin on my face for the rest of the game. The worst part is the feeling you get that you’ve let your team mates down. Everyone can tell you it’s not your fault, but that feeling’s always there when your team loses in a really tight game. The next worst feeling is losing by double digits or something like that. That’s just embarrassing.

WP: Which American university are you going to attend?

IO: I'm going to Georgia Perimeter College in Clarkston, Georgia.

WP: How did you come to win a scholarship over there?

IO: A few years back, I was accepted into a recruiting agency called NSR(National Scouting Report). They set up a website for college coaches to look up information such as academic and sporting stats and a skills video when they are looking to recruit international players, and also sent my stats and video footage to a number of college coaches by mail. I received some interest from a few colleges earlier on but was never offered a full scholarship. I think the closest offer I got was about 80%, and I wasn’t going to be able to go unless it was a full scholarship. So, I’d started to give up on that and hoped to work my way over to playing club soccer in the States some other way. Then, by some crazy twist of fate, the goalkeeper from the women’s team at GPC was injured so the coach was looking for another keeper and he was handed my video by the assistant coach, I think, and contacted me about playing for GPC on a full scholarship. I was so stoked and surprised as I’d totally given up on the idea of playing college soccer, but I guess life throws things like that at you and I believe when you do get thrown opportunities like this you just have to take it while you can.

WP: What will you be doing in the USA?

IO: I will be studying at the university, GPC, and playing soccer for their women’s team. I’m not sure if there will be many other goalkeepers vying for that number-one position, but I hope to train well and earn that spot. I’d also love to take the opportunity to travel as much as I can while I’m over there, around the USA and hopefully to other countries. Mexico is number one on my ‘places-to-visit’ list.

WP: How long will you be there?

IO: I hope that I’ll stay the full four years for uni. I’m really pumped to be going there to play soccer, but I will be studying as well and hope to come back with a degree. Of course, it all depends on my performance whether I stay the entire duration.

WP: What are you expecting?

IO: I’m expecting I’ll really have to knuckle down, in both my studies and training. I’m expecting these to be some really demanding years, emotionally, physically and mentally. But, I have no doubt that I’ll be able to handle it. I don't expect the reality of it all to really hit me until maybe a few months in, when I’ll really start to miss my family and friends and I’ll start to realise that I’m sort of on my own for a while. But, I reckon I’ll be okay. I expect the physical side, the training, to be intense. I think the weather is pretty hot most of the time in Georgia, so I may struggle to adapt to that to begin with. I will be there for the start of Semester 2 and their off-season training, which I’m pretty grateful for. I’ll be able to work my way up to their pre-season training instead of being thrown straight into their actual playing season, which starts in August. I expect I’ll have to push myself and that it will be incredibly demanding, but I look forward to the challenge.

WP: Tell me about your playing career in Tasmania.

IO: My playing career in Tasmania started when I was 14 when I played on my school team as a striker. I played school soccer through grades 8-12, mainly as a forward. The first time I played a game in goals was when I filled in for my sister’s team when I was 15. Sandy Chisholm was the coach and was one of the first people to tell me that’s where I should be. But, I thought it was nonsense. I liked playing on the field.

Then, in 2007, I joined the Tilford Zebras Women’s Premier League team as their keeper. After my first game, I was invited to train with the U/17 girls State team. I was hoping to be selected to go to Nationals that July, but I was still struggling to cope with conceding goals at that point. I was a bit fragile. I’d let in four or five goals and just start crying. I must have looked like such a bad sport, but I’d just feel so disappointed it would overwhelm me. I’d feel as though I was letting my team down.

I also had a massive weakness of being too shy to communicate with the other players, and communication is a massive part of the goalkeeper’s role. It wasn’t until maybe halfway through that year that I got proper goalkeeping training with Neil Connell. His coaching did the world of difference and I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for that.

Previously, I’d really resented being put in goals because I just didn’t want to be there and I really wanted to be out there playing on the field. But, I think after I started training with Neil, I started to enjoy the game more. One of the things he taught me was proper technique, and when I began to understand and enjoy the position more my game improved a lot.

I made the Women’s Southern team and then the Women’s State team that year. When I made the Southern team, one of the other goalkeepers, Chelsea, who was injured in a practice game so took on the role of manager, used to stand behind me when I was in goals and tell me what to say to get me talking. So, I just used to repeat everything she said.

When the Women’s State team went to Adelaide in December 2007, we played four games. Two were against the Adelaide Women’s State team and two were against the SASI (South Australian Sport Institute) girls. We lost every game, but we never gave up and I think our undying spirit left a bit of an impact.

Shortly after we came back from Adelaide, I was contacted by Vicki Linton, then TIS Women’s Football coach, who invited me along to the TIS field sessions, which I found really beneficial. It gave me some extra, quality training and something to aspire to be part of.

I changed clubs in 2008, joining the University Women’s Premier League side. I think it ended up being a good move, mainly because Uni had a keeper coach, but also because the girls on the team were a really great bunch of girls who helped me grow as a player and, more importantly, as a person. We had a good run that year, coming second in the Summer Cup and the League, and winning the Statewide Cup.

After the 2008 season ended, I was selected for the Women’s Southern team, and later attended trials for TIS. I received the scholarship, which started in September 2008, and then in December the squad went to Adelaide to play two games against the SASI girls, and to watch a W-League game live, which was fantastic. Again, being exposed to a higher level of football like that gave me, and everyone else, something to aspire to.

After we got back to Hobart, we got back into training and competed in the Women’s Summer Cup, which we won. We played in the U/14 boys’ league this year, which was surprisingly really challenging. They didn’t have as much of a physical presence as the women, but they were quite speedy and ultimately played good, fast football, which forced us to lift our game.

In April, I went to Beijing, China, with the TIS Women’s Football squad. We played five games in six days, all of them very challenging and physically demanding because of the heat and the air. But, we coped with it really well. At the end of September, my TIS scholarship expired and I entered the Vikings Futsal competition with the team Mean Machine. We went through the entire season unbeaten and recently won the Grand Final.


Corey Smith said...

congratulations and good luck izzy! you were an absolute star in the women's league!
thanks for the futsal plug also.........

it's a shame you won't be traveling to the vikings nationals as i believe you very well could have made the australian world cup side alongside jo burgess....

Anonymous said...

Nice work Izzy, always showed a lot of talent from what I saw when you were training/playing at Uni.

I know some of the video footage I shot of one of the saves you made in the 2006 North vs South game ended up in your video montage so glad all the hard work has paid off in the end.

Andrew B

Anonymous said...

Actually would have been Sept 2007 from rechecking the footage.

Chelsea Thomas said...

Congratulations Izzy,

I always knew that you would be a star! Play hard, stay strong and remember, never let conceding a goal shake your confidence.

Good luck in America,
Chelsea xoxo