Antoinette Williams, the defender who went from South Dakota State to battling against Roma and Juventus with her team Parma, joins Footwork to talk about embracing change and the unique trail she’s blazed.
Every week, Dylan and Sean at Footwork Podcast bring you original interviews from players and coaches making their own path around the world. Below we have a short excerpt of their latest podcast guest Antoinette Williams. You can find the full interview on your preferred streaming platform here (Footwork Podcast)
Antoinette, or Annie, had never really understood her chances to play professionally. Of course that dream was always there as a kid but it’s hard to recognize its potential, especially when it was difficult enough to get looks from a division I university.
As is the hope with all coaches, she was instilled belief upon by her WPSL trainer, who really planted the seed in her head that it was a dream worth chasing.
Her first taste actually started at the hands of a study abroad trip in Costa Rica, while she was still at South Dakota State, returning the next season and lacing up for Saprissa under contract.
“I didn’t realize how big football is outside of the US,” confesses Antoinette, “people live and breathe football here.”
Although it didn’t quite feel professional, as players had full-time jobs and training could kick off at 5:30 am sharp, still it laid the bricks and strengthened the idea of professional soccer.
The next contract couldn’t be more different; Costa Rica to Iceland is truly as different as it sounds. When we asked about any similarities between the two, she truly had to think. The investment and use of players in the youth was really the only areas she could consider.
Iceland to Sweden held more similarities but again not without its challenges. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes, so many hurdles and difficulties. And as this case with any unique career, there is certainly no roadmap to follow.
Contract to contract, extreme heat to extreme cold, new teams and environments, battles for playing time, questions of confidence and constantly trying to quickly adapt year after year. The list can go on.
This journey can be quite weighing on a player. It’s truly the grind that everyone says they want to embrace but few understand it’s meaning.
She could see former opponents taking more convenient routes to professional soccer and that could weigh on her, even if it was more subconscious.
Annie admits that she’s struggled a bit along the way. “When I was moving to the next step, because what I had in front of me didn’t look like what the traditional pro path looked like, I always felt like I was a step behind in the process.”
We live in an era of comparison, where we share our success and bury our struggles. And so, it truly took time for Annie to realize the beauty of her story. Not only is it one that brought her into the Serie A, but one that most likely will never be replicated.
“With each step it gave me more confidence, to be myself and really own my path instead of looking at all of the greats and saying ‘oh wow she went to a great college and she went straight to pro and she has all of this experience’.” The left back continues, “instead of looking at that, which is amazing and we should celebrate it. I really learned to celebrate my own.”
There are no parallel journeys, and scrolling along someone’s perceived timeline of success can be dangerous. It can certainly be a snowball effect, blinding you from your own success.
Intrinsically analyzing the bravery, commitment and sacrifice it took to spend years living your dream unfortunately isn’t as common. However, it can be so crucial. It’s also an absolutely earned realization.
It’s one that hasn’t always clicked with Annie, but with conversation, reaching out for help and reflection; one that she is really coming around for.
“Now I’m realizing, in all the different ways that my story has unfolded, that this has been really the most beneficial path for me,” Annie declares, “and it wasn’t step 1 step 2 step 3. Done. Perfect.”
No career path is truly linear. But that should be celebrated even louder.
Find the full podcast episode here when it goes live on May 1st.